You’re killing granny and grandpa

Young Jamaicans who continue to flout the COVID-19 containment measures and refuse to resist the urge to mingle are inadvertently killing their older relatives the cohort which is dying the most in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic here.

“We see our older population who end up, for the most part, in our hospitals, caused by them picking up the virus. And, more often than not, it is being transmitted by the younger population… and the ones who are dying most are those over 60.

“We really have to ask ourselves, are we willing to sacrifice our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, our senior family members for the opportunity to mingle without the mask, not obeying the protocols,” Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton emphasised yesterday.

His warning came on the tail end of a presentation by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie outlining the state of the country’s hospitals, which have far exceeded the number of beds committed for COVID-19 cases and are now forced to use beds reserved for general admissions.

Dr Bisasor-McKenzie said, as the island’s positivity rates continue to trend upwards, hospitalisations and deaths have also increased. She said the irony of the situation was that the younger cohort, who are in this case the super spreaders for the most part, have no symptoms and are passing on the virus to their older relatives.

“Who is it that we are getting the positive cases from? We still are seeing that within the 20 to 29 age group and the 30 to 39 age group is where we are having the most cases being confirmed positive. This suggests that within this age group there is still quite a bit of movement, quite a bit of exposure and infections,” the CMO stated.

“It is important for us to recognise that this is the age group that many persons will not get symptoms, so they will not appear to be COVID-positive, and therefore they may not be taking the precautions, they are not adhering to the restrictions, and therefore the potential of spread to the older age group who they may come into contact with is a very real possibility. And that is where we are finding that those persons [in the older age cohort] although less of them are being infected the majority of those that are infected that leads to severe illness falls in that age group,” she explained further.

“So you can see in terms of the distribution of deaths by age, that within those age groups, 10 to 19, 20 to 29, and also below 10, that the case fatality rate is low, but these are the age groups that we are having the highest number of positives,” said Bisasor-McKenzie.

“However, when you look at the over 60 age groups you will see that the case fatality rates are high. So these persons are becoming exposed, more than likely through contact with the 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 age groups, and so again we would want to emphasise that these persons need to adhere to restrictions to decrease the risk of exposure,” she added.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness show that the elderly account for 6.3 per cent of overall COVID-19 deaths in Jamaica. Of that number 16.6 per cent were in the 90 and above age group, 11.3 per cent were in the 80-89 age cohort; seven per cent were in the 70-79 age group; and 3.6 per cent fell within the 60-69 age group.

According to health officials, one in four persons are still attending public gatherings such as parties, while one in five persons are attending private gatherings of 15 people or more, and one in eight persons have been to bars, nightclubs, and other places of amusement.

As of Monday, health officials said there were 36,231 confirmed cases of which 760 were imported and over 35,000 locally acquired since last year March. The island also recorded 542 deaths with a case fatality rate of 1.5 per cent. Of the total number of cases, 16,490 have recovered.

“We have distribution across the parishes; right across the country we are seeing quite a bit of active cases. Right now we are recording 6,230 active cases, that is cases confirmed over the last 14 days,” Bisasor-McKenzie told the meeting. She said the country last week had an overall positivity rate of 38.9 per cent. That is now in the 40s.

Last March, following the discovery of the first case of the virus in the island, Jamaica dedicated 22 hospital beds for COVID-19 cases, which, over time, were increased to 380 beds with hospitalisations remaining below the 100 per cent mark. However, since February this year the number of cases overshot the bed spaces resulting in the introduction of additional wards across the island.

However, as of February the number of cases have outstripped the just over 600 beds allocated.

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