PHILIPSBURG–The number of St. Maarten’s coronavirus COVID-19 cases has risen to six, Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said in a national address on Saturday night.
Details of the new three cases were not provided during the national address. Two of the positive cases are hospitalised and one pending case is also hospitalised at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC).
According to the figures provided by Jacobs, as of Saturday, March 28, there were 421 returning residents in self-quarantine; 119 in self-isolation and 41 tested, of which six were positive, 19 were negative and 16 had test results pending.
Jacobs said all but one of the cases had recently travelled or were contacts of a confirmed case. Two are hospitalised and in stable condition, and as of Friday night another suspected case had been hospitalised with flu-like symptoms and had been tested. “We are still awaiting that result as well as 15 others.”
“As a result of this, even though there is one case that is not related to travel, I still would like to implore all persons to stay at home. This virus must be taken seriously. As a result, GPs [general practitioners – Ed.] and other medical professionals will also be making that call to you if you have symptoms, or if you have travelled, to remain at home in isolation (in a room by yourself), or quarantined,” Jacobs said in the address.
“If you are quarantined and are therefore moving around in your home, your family members are also now suspected and should remain in the home with you. Arrangements should be made with other family members or close friends outside the home to be able to deliver food, medication and carry out other essential services.
“You are asked not to visit the government building, GEBE, TelEm, the banks, SMMC, the White and Yellow Cross [Care Foundation] and other essential areas. This is in order to protect the community.
“If persons continue to break their quarantine and isolation, we are finalising arrangements to have quarantine locations whereby you will then be forced into quarantine. This will not be a fun activity for you nor us and will take away the necessary resources that are needed to fight this disease. I am imploring and asking you to stay at home.”
She said this virus was assuming phenomenal proportions all around the world and we can mitigate the spread here in St. Maarten by our behaviour. We can also do so by being proactive in monitoring ourselves, by continuing to exercise proper hygiene, and remaining isolated or quarantined should we be a suspected case, have travelled, or if we are in the home with one of the two.
She urged the populace to allow medical professionals to do their work. “Give them the time and space to do so. This is not a time to panic. This is a time to plan, prepare, encourage and uplift others to be positive.
“I’ve seen many opportunities where mass parties and mass praying have been done online. I believe these are the types of activities that build cohesion in a community that is now forced to live apart. We are a warm community, and soon we will be able to enjoy the hugs, the handshakes and the kisses. However, at this time stay at home, be safe and until the next update, I bid you farewell for this evening.”
She said that in an effort to increase access to information to the public, as well as offer additional support, a list with the contact numbers of the GPs and their availability to serve non-emergency medical issues would be published to further take the burden off the emergency room, which lately has been inundated with calls, enquiries and visits for non-emergency issues.
The Ambulance Department will start an awareness campaign aimed at educating the public as to what constitutes an emergency requiring emergency medical assistance, to prevent non-emergency call-outs leading to resources being used in these events. These already scarce resources (personal protective equipment (PPE)) are necessary when personnel have actual COVID-19 cases to assess and transport.
Jacobs again urged retired nurses, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and nurses who are currently not in the field, student nurses and other persons who are willing and able to assist Mental Health Foundation (MHF), SMMC, White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) and Collective Prevention Services (CPS) to contact the Health Department to volunteer their time.
She said also that SMMC has established an “Outbreak Management Team” and is doing everything within its power to prepare for a further outbreak.
“The team has daily meetings to assess where they are and what further measures need to be taken as the situation unfolds. As a result, SMMC has ensured that they have six spaces for COVID-19-positive and suspected cases inside the hospital, and have scaled down regular practices and activities in order to be able to free up beds in case an outbreak occurs.
“In addition to these spaces, the SMMC as of … Saturday, March 28, also received four emergency holding rooms for suspected COVID-19 cases. This is to alleviate pressure also on the emergency room and to avoid contamination in that area where general cases can still be assisted,” she said.