Minister Wilson - COVID-19 UPDATE 13 April

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Good Afternoon,

Thank you, Premier.

Today, there were no test results received, however an estimated 39 are being processed as we speak. Sadly, another individual has passed away, on this occasion a senior who had been hospitalized. I want to begin by sending my sincere condolences to the family. Please know that the entire team at the Ministry of Health grieves for your loss.

Bermuda's total confirmed positive cases remains 57; 30 have now recovered, 6 persons are hospitalized (three persons in ICU), and there are 16 persons under active public health monitoring, but who do not require hospitalization. Today’s good news is that another patient has been discharged from hospital.

The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 67 and 78 years, and the average age is 72. The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 52. The median age is 53, and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 86 years.

Out of the 57 positive cases confirmed to date, 31 are males, and 26 are females.

As I announced last night, the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) received laboratory confirmation yesterday of COVID-19 in two residents and two staff members at the Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Residence.  Public health actions and contact tracing is actively occurring. Unfortunately, these results confirmed to us that there was spread of the virus within the facility.  This is the second care home where there has been a positive case involving staff members, and we all understand the higher risks for seniors.

As a result, care home residents and staff at Matilda Smith are being tested for COVID-19. More than 50 people are being tested and we expect results within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The team is working with all rest homes to ensure staff and residents are as safe as possible. The country’s testing capacity will continue to prioritize rest homes and other high risk persons.

The outbreak is being managed by strategies put in place prior to the cases being confirmed and these will continue and include: no visitors to the facility, emphasis on infection prevention and control hygiene practices,  enhanced daily monitoring of staff and residents’ health, isolation of any symptomatic individuals, and exclusion from work of any staff with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.  Enhanced cleaning and disinfection is currently taking place.  Disinfecting wipes have been provided by the Department of Health to all facilities.

The confirmation of COVID-spread at rest homes underscores the importance of our decision to amend Bermuda’s Residential Care and Nursing Homes Regulations to prevent employees from working at more than one site where there is a risk of communicable disease spread. Some private homes have since followed this example.

Our Residential Care Home Regulation Officer has been communicating with the homes and asking them to stop the practice since March. We hope this will safeguard our residents from COVID-19 by eliminating any potential transfer of the disease among the different long-term care homes by unknowing staff members.

We know the sacrifice our health care workers are making – both in the long-term care homes and in the community – as, unlike many in Bermuda, they cannot shelter in place or work remotely. We are supporting them as much as we can with supplies of PPE, regular guidance and funding for resources as needed. There is no wish to place restrictions on anyone, but in this instance it is for the safety and health of community.

The Bermuda Health Council is in the process of compiling a list of potential substitutes that could assist with staffing shortages due to this change in legislation.

Since January, there have been extraordinary efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering our care homes. This is a global pandemic and Bermuda has local transmission, and the efforts have rightly focused on managing and containing spread.

The homes have been on high alert since the beginning of the year and have been working tirelessly on preparing and equipping the homes for COVID-19. This started with plans for restricting visitation, cleaning and disinfecting the facilities, planning for expected staffing shortages, training on using personal protective equipment, and so many more details that have been critical to putting us in a more controllable position.

Visitors have been cancelled to homes since mid-March and the staff without symptoms have been provided with masks.

The Residential and Nursing Home Care team has required the staff to take their temperatures at the door, heightened infection control measures and changed behaviors such as not wearing their uniforms outside of the care homes. Residents would also have their temperatures, blood pressure, pulse and general well-being assessed daily in efforts to detect early warning signs of the residents being unwell and support early interventions.

We are currently securing the supply chain for thousands of units of supplies and meals for the upcoming months, filling the positions of staff that may be unable to work or require isolation, obtaining additional transportation for essential workers and maintaining clear and constant communication with the hospital on potential transfers.

Many of these precautions we have seen adapted worldwide… but have proved to be no match for complete protection against COVID-19. However, we must not lose heart…we must remind ourselves that the picture would look alarmingly different if we did not take these protective measures.

Therefore, this is also a time to remind the community at large of the additional measures that should be taken to protect our most vulnerable - those with health conditions such as severe asthma, cancer, poorly controlled chronic conditions (especially related to heart disease) and repository illness or diabetes.

The precautions are called ‘shielding’ and require these persons to stay at home, strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms and anyone coming into their home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

We know we are judged as a society on how we protect and support our most vulnerable, let’s all do our best to protect ours. The Ministry of Health is currently working tirelessly to do what we can, but this is about all of us as a community doing our best.

We will be issuing further guidance around ‘Shielding’ tomorrow.

Thank you.