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TCI: From 11 to 30 COVID cases in a week

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#TurksandCaicos, July 20 2021 – One week ago, Turks and Caicos was at 11 active cases of the Coronavirus. Today, that figure has nearly tripled with 30 active cases and most of these new infections are guests to the country.

Nine new cases were recorded over the weekend; at least seven were tourists. When TCI was at 21 active cases on Friday; one person who caught the virus worked at the airport, one worked at a bank, three were from the Civil Service and 12 were tourists.

When the health minister, E. Jay Saunders held a press conference on Friday he informed that 40 per cent were male, 60 per cent female; most of the 21 infected were from the age group of 20 to 59, 75 per cent and the large majority had no idea they had Covid-19 because they were non symptomatic. 

While it may have been a bit more reassuring to hear – at that time – that most of those infected were in the tourist category; it was still concerning to learn that three people caught Covid-19 because they were in contact with an infected person. 

The other five cases were community spread; people whom the Department of Epidemiology could find no link to the current cases. 

Hon Saunders, Deputy Premier said there is concern though Health is neither panicked or surprised as the July 1 softening of restrictions allowed people to come together in party environments, which would naturally result in a spike. 

All of the new Covid-19 cases are charted for the island of Providenciales. 

Party Responsibly; Roll Back could be Rapped Back!

The current relaxed restrictions are not written in stone; residents could see the roll back, rapped back if cases were to begin an exponential boom. 

Deputy Premier E. Jay Saunders, who is also the Minister of Health on Friday assured there would be no change to the current curfew (which is set at 1 a.m.) or business operation hours, (which is midnight) and capacity rule (which is 70 per cent) if residents looked at Covid-19 control as a partnership and helped to keep numbers of infections down. 

The Minister is asking people to be responsible amidst the pandemic and there is still a pandemic going on. 

Cases are surging globally, again particularly as a result of the Delta variant which is 60 per cent more infectious.  Turks and Caicos, said Saunders has not seen the Delta variant.  What Turks and Caicos will see, however, is a departure of the Cuban medical brigade by the end of July and the hospital is now trying to find ways to fill the personnel gap this group leaving will create.

Currently, no one has had to be hospitalised for Covid-19 among the 30 new infections recorded.  Turks and Caicos’ daily increase remains in the single digits but if that were to change to double digits and grow to 30 to 50 cases active; then more stern restrictions will be re-introduced, promised the Minister.

Health Department needs boost; Contract Tracing not done on Tourist infections

At least three tourist families make up the cases of Covid-19 which have been recorded among guests to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Such an unusual occurrence is this,  it has many asking questions including whether or not the guests were vaccinated and whether these guests were exposed to the coronavirus at the same resort or at the same event or while enjoying the same service. 

The latter fact is unknown, and in speaking with E. Jay Saunders the Minister of Health, Deputy Premier he revealed that the health team is concerned.  He also said, the fact that he is unable to report what is ground zero for these cases, exposes a defect.  That defect, is the Epidemiology Department must be better resourced so that it can carry out its contact tracing activities more vigorously.

Saunders says he is prepared to make the investment to improve the capacity of Epidemiology. 

So, at this stage… it is unclear if the three guest families are connected in any way, which could explain the anomaly.  None of the infected in this recent rash of new infections are break-out cases, which means the people now appearing as new infections for Turks and Caicos are all unvaccinated, said Hon Saunders.   

Health

Ministry of Health and Human Services Conducts Emergency Vehicle Operators Course for Emergency Medical Services Personnel

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Ministry of Health and Human Services successfully conducted Emergency Vehicle Operator Training for Emergency Medical Services Department in March 2024.

The Ministry of Health and Human Services has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of emergency services across the Turks and Caicos Islands with the successful completion of an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course. Hosted for all members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department, this course marks a significant step in the ongoing efforts to provide high quality emergency response services.

Tailored specifically for ambulance operators, the course featured a comprehensive curriculum blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills. Participants underwent rigorous training encompassing critical safety practices essential for effective emergency responses. The amalgamation of didactic instruction and hands-on training enabled operators to navigate emergency situations with precision and confidence, fostering a culture of safety paramount for preserving lives.

In times of crisis, the EMS Department emphasizes the importance of well-trained and composed responders. Equipped with the skills acquired through this specialized course, EMS personnel are better prepared to address emergencies promptly and effectively, ensuring timely assistance to individuals in need.

The course, conducted by esteemed expert Mike Massaro, President of Trilogy Emergency Medical Solutions, ran from March 19th to March 22nd, 2024, across all islands. Mr. Massaro commended the EMS Department members for their enthusiasm and dedication to learning, acknowledging their pivotal role in enhancing community safety.

Participants lauded the interactive teaching approach employed throughout the course, noting its effectiveness in making lessons both engaging and informative. Their positive feedback underscores the value of practical, hands-on training in bolstering emergency response capabilities.

Minister of Health and Human Services, Honorable Shaun D Malcolm commented that “I am confident that the principles instilled during this course will significantly contribute to the safety and well-being of individuals accessing emergency services. By investing in continuous training and development, the Ministry remains steadfast in its mission to deliver safe, efficient and reliable emergency care to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

For more information, please visit the Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services Facebook pagE at https://www.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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Dengue cases rising in Region 

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

As of March 26, 2024, over 3.5 million cases of dengue and more than 1,000 deaths have been reported in the region, now, both the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), are ringing alarm bells about the outbreak as cases swell to record highs.

PAHO on March 28 called for collective action in the region to fight back the growing wave of infections.

“This is cause for concern, as it represents three times more cases than those reported for the same period in 2023, a record year with more than 4.5 million cases reported in the region,” Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO Director said during a press briefing.

For now cases are concentrated in three main countries: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina which account for nearly all of them, around 92 percent, but infections are on the rise regionally.

According to Barbosa, Caribbean countries must still be vigilant as data is beginning to show increases in areas like Barbados. That is paired with concerns from PAHO that some countries may not be equipped to handle the surge.

Nearly $500,000 was allocated in the 2023 2024 budget to the environmental health department under The Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health and Human Services to help with dengue which had been listed as a public nuisance.

Last year in the Turks and Caicos Islands, only a few rounds of fogging were completed. According to data from the Appropriations Committee around 10% of communities were fogged on schedule. Explaining the low number, representatives of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) maintained that fogging was not the primary defense against mosquito breeding locally.

”Fogging should actually be a last resort, there are preventative measures such as the treatment of swamps, and inspection of residential areas and communities for breeding sites.”

Representatives admitted though that they were still hampered by a lack of resources.

The country declared an outbreak in late 2024. Now there is an ongoing public education campaign to make residents aware of what they need to do to keep their homes safe and free from mosquitoes in addition

The Turks and Caicos Islands EHD also says they have been provided with money to help with garbage disposal in their battle against the vector borne disease.

The Ministry has also contracted entomologists to research what kind of mosquitoes live in the country and how to tackle them.

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31 Turks & Caicos Medical Professionals, Trained in Trauma care

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

In a first for the Turks and Caicos and one that some would describe as particularly important, over three dozen healthcare professionals were upskilled in emergency trauma care via Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) certification.

Trauma Care in emergency medicine usually refers to treating patients who are critically ill or have severe injuries and need to be quickly stabilized like gunshot wounds, damaged limbs, crush injuries, and stab wounds.

In 1976 following a plane crash involving a surgeon and his children who experienced substandard trauma care, the first ATLS course was created. It attempts to provide basic training for medical professionals when dealing with acute trauma cases where there is little staff on hand. In fact ATLS is supposed to work with as little as a single doctor and nurse team working together to stop the most critical injuries first, ensuring a better chance of survival.

This is particularly useful for the Turks and Caicos with its small hospitals and limited staff. Health officials admitted this, highlighting what they describe as ‘the pressing need for such training, particularly due to physician shortage, isolated communities in family islands and other barriers to accessing this critical training.’

Recognizing the need, the Hamilton Education Foundation jumped into action, and in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and the American College of Surgeons conducted a Hybrid Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Demo for 31 doctors in the Turks and Caicos Islands on May 22nd and 23rd, 2024.

Led by Professor Susan Briggs,the foundation describes the course as historic in that it’s the first-ever done outside the United States and says it is;“Crucial for enhancing the quality of healthcare delivery and saving lives in the face of increasing intentional and unintentional injuries.”

With the rise in gunshot injuries in the country, seen through police data since 2020 many residents might be inclined to agree.

While admitting it was difficult to measure if ATLS reduced mortality, a 2016 article published in the National Library of Medicine describes the courses as “very useful from an educational point of view. It significantly increased knowledge, and improved practical skills and the critical decision making process in managing multiple trauma patients”

Rufus Ewing, Former Premier and Executive Chairman of the Hamilton Education Foundation, said, “This initiative aligns with our mission to enhance medical education and improve access to quality healthcare services in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The training received broad brush support from the Ministry of Health, TCI Hospital and private sector.

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