#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, Friday March 23, 2018 – Firemen of the Grand Turk airport today took an action that caused significant inconvenience and revenue loss to people, passengers and businesses but it seems, their sit out will bring resolve to a list of long-standing issues, including at least one which dates back nearly 10 years.
A team of Cabinet and Airports Authority board officials were aboard the only flight allowed into Grand Turk today; a Caicos Express Airways charter brought the group of seven from Providenciales to meet with the 18 fire men and women of the JAGS McCartney International Airport.
The meeting was called as an urgent matter as the TCIAA scrambled to get the airport in the Capital reopened to commercial flights and the dozens of passengers who were left stranded.
The plight of the fire crew was exposed and what the country saw was nothing short of unimaginable working conditions for a group of professionals, who in other countries are often hailed as heroes.
A rusted and dirty old container has been the office space for the fire crew for years. It was given to the group when Hurricane Ike, back in 2008, destroyed their building.
An advocate for the group, former Chief Minister and PDA Leader Oswald Skippings shared that the workers not only had to fight off mosquitoes in the broken down container, but have caught snakes which have slithered inside the open doorway.
The container is severely dilapidated in the photos Magnetic Media has seen; the photos have been verified as authentic. There is no electricity and each day the crew is made to work in the spot from as early as 5am, through the grueling heat of the day, all without restroom facilities.
It has been labeled as the most inhumane conditions.
Mr. Skippings informed Magnetic Media that a list of concerns was emailed to the CEO of the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority, John Smith, this morning. Smith was among those on that flight and in the meeting held with most of the firemen today.
At one point, the officials waited up to two hours to meet with the fire crew which was adamant that they wanted their representatives in on the session. This demand was however refused by Minister of Home Affairs, Delroy Williams who led the contingent on behalf of the Premier, who is the Minister responsible for airports.
Minister Williams explained to Magnetic Media that the selected representatives were of an unorthodox nature and were not seen as a necessary part of the meeting. Two of the individuals standing with the firemen are lead members of opposition political parties and the third is a former Governor’s Office appointee to the House of Assembly.
George Lightbourne, who is the sitting Member of Parliament for Grand Turk North (PNP); Oswald Skippings, who is the leader of the People’s Democratic Alliance and former Consultative Forum Chairperson, Lillian Missick wanted to be in on the meeting.
At one point, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police were dispatched and appeared on the scene.
It caused an already tense situation to become even more strained but eventually, with not all of the firemen present, there was some discussion.
The TCIAA tonight reported that the haphazard meeting resulted in information to the firemen that they had already received outstanding overtime pay and the release explained that a solution is coming to their workplace accommodation.
“The delay in the relocation of the Fire Service was due in part to the fire in the Control Tower as the location had to be used to temporarily accommodate Air Traffic Services to facilitate flight operations in Grand Turk.”
The explanation still does not justify the 10-year lapse in ending firemen working in such squalid conditions.
Mr. Skippings said it is unfair that the fire men and women are the only staffers of the TCIAA on contracts which are renewed, in some cases on an annual or half-yearly basis. He said this offers the firemen no stability or job security.
It was explained that uniforms are not regularly provided and are insufficient given the long hours the fire crew is scheduled to work.
Public outcry varied but generally comments cried terrible shame on all government administrations over the past 10 years which have allowed the fire crew’s troubles to go unresolved.
This includes five governors, four premiers and one executive body of the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority.
It is unclear if the JAGS McCartney International Airport will resume regular flight operations tomorrow, though the TCIAA promised that it would be diligently working to make that happen.
Omicron results in 267,000 case record for USA, eclipsing even Delta
By Dana Malcolm
#USA, December 31, 2021 – The US has broken its record for most daily coronavirus cases with a massive 267,000 cases recorded on Tuesday. The information was courtesy of data prepared by the New York Times about infection rates.
The Omicron variant now accounts for more than half of the cases in the country.
Information the Times released said, “The country is averaging more than 260,000 new cases a day, surpassing the peak levels from last winter. Infection rates are especially high in parts of the Northeast and Midwest. Though breakthrough infections are common with Omicron, scientists say vaccinated people, especially those who have received booster shots, have protection against severe cases and death.”
Despite the steep increase there is a silver lining. The same data that shows the increase also shows that hospitalizations and deaths remain at a steady rate and that rate is much lower than variants like Delta.
Amidst the drastic increase the Centers for Disease Control has slashed its recommendations for quarantine days in half, after which a COVID patient may leave quarantine without testing. There has been much controversy surrounding the issue with accusations of capitalism being slung toward the entity.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the decision saying, “What we do know is about 85 percent to 90 percent of viral transmission happens in those first five days, which is why we really want people to stay home during that period of time.”
She said masks should be worn for five days after quarantine to prevent the final 10 per cent to 15 per cent of possible transmission.
Walensky did not explain the efficiency of a 10 quarantine vs the new five day quarantine or say if this was expected to lead to an uptick in cases.
Deadly Salad Mix Recall in US; TCI seems unaffected
By Shanieka Smith
#December 24, 2021 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating an outbreak related to packaged salads that have killed about three people, and 22 have been hospitalised due to fears over Listeria infection.
Recalls were made in Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Indiana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Massachusetts.
The brands recalled are Fresh Express, Bowl & Basket, Giant Eagle, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, O Organics, Signature Farms, Simply Nature, Weis Fresh from the Field, and Wellsley Farms Organic.
The CDC advised that anyone who has purchased the recalled items should discard them and properly sanitise their refrigerators to avoid contracting the associated bacteria called listeria.
Listeria may cause headaches, stiff neck, confusion, and fever.
Local grocer, Sunny Foods confirmed that the recall does not impact his store and it may be the same for others in country.
The TCI Government had not replied up to news time to a query about whether the recall affects this market.
TC Reef Fund gives a Financial & Projects Report
By Shanieka Smith
#TurksandCaicos, December 7, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, the local environmental non-profit, announced a successful fiscal year. Approximately $114,058 dollars was raised in 2021. The expenses of the organization, however, outweighed the revenues. For the fiscal year, it was about $128,984 dollars.
The largest source of revenue came from donations designated for specific projects. Nearly half of the fiscal year’s revenue came from individual donations and memberships. Don Stark, Chairman of the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, said the ongoing success of fund-raising contributed to hiring their first full-time Executive Director in 2021, Mrs. Alizée Zimmermann.
“I have been very happy to become a major part of the TCRF as the Executive Director,” said Alizée Zimmermann. “TCRF has accomplished so much since 2010 and I hope that we will continue to be a leader in environmental advocacy not only in the TCI, but also regionally. We are already considered a regional leader in the battle with SCTLD. I am also happy to say that in 2021 we have expanded our volunteer network to over 100 residents who donate their time to assist TCRF with our various projects. We could not accomplish the things we do without the support we receive from these generous volunteers.”
Since 2010, when the organization was founded, $1.4 million dollars have been raised without the government’s contribution. About $924,000, which is, 67 per cent of the money, has been used to support environmental projects in the TCI.
Its largest project, which started in 2012, is installing and maintaining dive and snorkel boat moorings. Stark said the project’s cost is now at 287 thousand dollars.
“That’s $287,000 that TCRF has essentially donated to the TCIG, since once we install a mooring in a marine park, it becomes Government property,” said Stark.
He added that over $43, 000 had been invested in education and outreach programs.
Alizée Zimmermann, Executive Director of the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, said they expanded their volunteer network to over 100 residents.
The Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease project, which dominated the expenses, came to almost $37,000. Also, moorings which were over $24,000 accounted for a large part of the project expense.
The third-largest project expense was the Smith’s Reef Rehabilitation and Improvements project. It was about $10,585 dollars for the year.
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