COVID-19 Update - Minister of Health Remarks 12 January 2021

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

Good Afternoon,

There were 813 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and five were positive for COVID-19. All of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:

§  1 resident who arrived on Delta 584 from Atlanta on 6 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test

§  2 residents who arrived on Jet Blue 62231 from New York on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

§  2 residents who arrived on American Airlines 308 from Miami on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

Additionally, since the last update, four cases have recovered.

There are 91 active cases, of which;

•        84 are under public health monitoring and

•        7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 661 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 558 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the age range is less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 43 years (median: 44 years), and the age range is less than 10 years (age group: 5-9 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years (median: 54 years), and the age range is less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the age range is less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

·         179 are Imported

·         445 are classified as local transmission of which:

·         385 are Local transmission with known contact/source and

·         60 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source

·         37 are Under Investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 2 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.62), and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

And now on to the exciting news of our COVID-19 vaccine.

I'm thrilled to have seen the very first COVID-19 vaccines provided yesterday by our Ministry of Health team. The vaccine is the hope that we've all been looking for in the midst of this pandemic that has cost lives to loved ones, family gatherings, our activities, schooling of our children, and so many other sacrifices.

As we begin the rollout of the vaccine, I know many in our community have been registering their interest. Thank you Thank you Thank you. It is so good to see much interest in getting the vaccine. Our vaccine strategy has been developed based on international best practices, and it has prioritized groups who are most at risk from getting sick from COVID-19.

Our first phase, Phase 1A, is the staff and residents of our long term care facilities such as residence of the Extended Care Unit of the Hospital. For nursing homes and assisted living centres, we are training their nurses to administer the vaccine to those who volunteer to be vaccinated.

This group has had to sacrifice, even more than most during the pandemic. Our elders have struggled with extreme restrictions on their activities, visits from their families, and social activities we take for granted. The staff has also made tremendous sacrifices for their jobs, and we wish to ensure that the vaccinations are given to this group who truly can benefit so much from the protection that the vaccine can provide.

We will also prioritize our frontline healthcare and frontline essential workers. In this context, healthcare workers include all employees of the Bermuda Hospitals Board along with frontline workers from the Department of Health and those employed in the private healthcare industry. Frontline essential workers are those who provide services which prevent social disruption and allow society to function, and who are at risk for higher levels of exposure to COVID-19. These include firemen, police, corrections officers, personnel at the ports of entry, and teachers. People who are 80 years or older are also encouraged to be vaccinated in this first group as well.

Phase 1B: the second group will comprise those over the age of 65, but priority will continue to be given to those who are over the age of 80. This group will focus on those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and the clinically extremely vulnerable people who have:

  • a suppressed immune system such as during and after chemotherapy or after an organ transplant,
  • lupus,
  • severe asthma,
  • Severe COPD.

Phase 2: The third group will be those over the age of 50, again prioritised by those who are clinically vulnerable. Clinically vulnerable are those who suffer with:

  • heart disease,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • liver disease, and,
  • diabetes.

Following that, the vaccine will be available to everyone over the age of 18 (or over 16 with parental consent) in Phase 3.

If you have questions about whether you are clinically vulnerable, I encourage you to talk directly with your primary care physician for advice.

If you have questions about the vaccination process or if you would like to register your interest in getting vaccinated, please call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 444-2498, selecting option #2, or fill out the convenient on-line form at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine. If you have any questions about the vaccine itself, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

As has been reported, the vaccine hotline was overwhelmed with calls yesterday from residents who wish to register their interest in being vaccinated. We had some 700 calls of persons wishing to register to be vaccinated.

This did create a bottleneck in the registration process, and the online form will allow residents to register their interest easily, efficiently, and far more conveniently.

The vaccine registration form asks basic information such as your name, date of birth, address, occupation, and whether you have any pre-existing conditions. Filling out the form should take approximately two minutes, and it is important to note that the information that you enter will be kept private with the Government of Bermuda.

It is also important to emphasize that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. Supplies of the initial delivery of vaccine are limited and must be allocated based on medical need. All submissions will be reviewed by our medical personnel and prioritized based on their assessments. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be sorted and there is no need for you to re-submit. We do ask that people who registered be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.

As of 4:30pm today, the vaccine teams had received 1885 online registration forms and more than 800 email registrations. This does not include vaccine registrations being facilitated by key contact persons representing the fire, the police, corrections offices, ports of entry staff and teachers.

Please do not register your interest if you:

·         have had any other vaccinations within the last month, as you will need to wait for 30 days;

·         have recently traveled and do not yet have your negative 14 day travel test results;

·         if you are receiving a therapy for any medical conditions as you must consult with your doctor prior to registering your interest; and

·         are in quarantine as you of course must complete your quarantine first.

If you have any questions about the vaccine itself - how it works, what side effects there might be, or how it came to be developed quickly and safely, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

There has been speculation and commentary on various social media platforms about how long the first batch of vaccines will last and when the next delivery is expected. Please understand that we cannot give an exact timeline as there are many variables, such as the uptake within the various groups, and the percentage of individuals in these groups who get their second dose when they have been scheduled to do so. As it stands now, we expect the first batch to be fully deployed by the end of March.

With regards to when the next delivery is expected. The ministry is working diligently with GAVI through the Covax facility to determine the arrival date. We are in qualifying discussions now because the facility may be in a position to initiate a small scale ‘first wave’ of deliveries using the Pfizer vaccine in March, if Bermuda meets the stringent criteria outlined for this initial small scale ‘first wave’.

I want to remind everyone that vaccines save millions of lives globally every year, and have done so for over a century. In Bermuda, there has been a robust vaccination programme in place for decades, and as a result we have seen dramatic decreases in the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases.

I got vaccinated yesterday, as did the Premier, Dr. Carika Weldon and many others – more than 550 in these first two days! We trust the science, and we are confident that this vaccine is safe. So far, I am encouraged by the outpouring of people registering for the vaccine. It was overwhelming at the call centre at first, but we have since increased our resources to handle the demand, and as I mentioned earlier, we have set up a convenient on-line form to register for the vaccine - https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.

I want to congratulate Dr. Heather Armstrong and the entire vaccination rollout team who put together the plan for Bermuda’s COVID-19 vaccination program.  A tremendous amount of work has been done to get here, and we want to vaccinate as many people as possible so that we can help protect them, their loved ones, and also, help the Island to achieve herd immunity. According to most experts, if we are able to vaccinate 60 - 70% of the population, we can halt the transmission and spread of the virus. That is our goal.

Finally, I want to also remind everyone that the Ministry of Health is hosting ‘Vaccine Awareness - Join the Conversation’ on the Government’s Facebook page, YouTube, and CITV, live, Saturday, 16 January 2021, at 6 pm. This is an excellent opportunity for those who may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine specifically, and vaccines in general. This programme will allow viewers to post their questions online to have them answered by medical professionals.

Until we achieve herd immunity, though, don’t forget we must continue to avoid the 3Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

 

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