Cayman has three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of positive cases to 73, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee reported at Tuesday’s daily press briefing.
The latest results are from a batch of 187 samples, he said.
So far, the results of 1,335 tests have been returned. Of the individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus, one has died, five are receiving treatment in hospital, 33 are symptomatic and 24 are asymptomatic, with 10 fully recovered, Lee said.
Referring to the three latest confirmed cases, one has a travel history, one is a contact of a previously confirmed case, and one is assumed to be locally acquired. One of the new cases is a health worker at the Health Services Authority, Lee confirmed.
He said Cayman’s testing was going “well”, and was the equivalent of just over 20,000 tests per million of population.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the latest positive results underlined the ongoing concerns about the health crisis.
“Although the results are clearly trending the right way, we are far from being out of the woods with this pandemic, and the next few weeks will be very, very telling,” he said. “We are hopeful we will be able to ease some of the restrictions starting Monday.”
“We are way up in the league with respect to the number of tests we are conducting, given the size of the population,” he added. “We won’t have enough information to give a categoric statement about the level of the virus’s prevalence in the broader community and, therefore, we must continue with the practices we have now become accustomed to – the physical distancing, which includes staying at home as much as you can, washing of hands and respiratory etiquette, and so forth.”
Lifting the lockdown
Cayman’s current soft and hard curfew regulations are due to officially expire on Friday. McLaughlin indicated on Monday that, depending on the ongoing test results, some of the current restrictions may be lifted as part of the government’s multi-phase plan for the various stages of reopening.
Governor Martyn Roper said on Tuesday that he supported the government’s plans for an “exit strategy” for the islands’ lockdown, which he said would span six weeks. He described those plans as “very careful and cautious”, adding that officials were keeping a close eye on the test results.
“If we get bad news on testing, we’ll have to reconsider where we are on the opening-up plans,” he warned.
The premier said the first phase of reopening would occur on Monday, 4 May, but pointed out that the construction industry will not be included in this first phase.
The reopening process will be done in two-week intervals, he said. “We are hoping construction will be in the next phase, which will be on 18 May,” he added.
“Construction, we have been told by those involved, is not the easiest of industries to be able to follow COVID-19 protocols. The nature of the work is people have to work together,” he said, adding, “It’s not that easy to work out in the hot sun with masks.”
The premier said more details of the types of businesses and services that would be allowed to be opened on 4 May would be forthcoming, but he did state that government was looking at the possibility of allowing curbside delivery of certain goods in the first phase of the reopening process.
He said that the more testing is carried out, the more informed the decisions on opening up certain industries would be. “We hope to have at least done a representative sampling of workers before we actually move on,” McLaughlin said.
Cayman’s capacity for testing has increased dramatically in recent weeks, with the arrival of 165,000 tests on island last month and with laboratories at both the Health Services Authority and CTMH Doctors Hospital carrying out testing.
Addressing concerns that the closure of several meat processing and packing plants in the US might impact the supply of imported meat in Cayman, the premier said he had spoken to Foster’s managing director Woody Foster who said his stores and other supermarkets in Cayman would be “fine for the next little while”.
McLaughlin acknowledged, “It’s not critical at this point, but it’s a concern.”
Several US plants have closed because many staff members have contracted COVID-19.
McLaughlin said Cayman’s supermarkets and distributors had begun deep freezing and storing its stocks of meat.
He added that the stores’ suppliers had assured them that stock would still be arriving on island.
In the meantime, Cayman would look into sourcing meat from South and Central America, he said.
Post offices reopening
On Monday, the premier said some post offices would reopen from this week, and customers would be able to pick up their mail from their post office boxes, even at the post offices that were not open.
The Airport Post Office on Grand Cayman, the West End Post Office on Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Post Office will open from 9am to 1pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The premier confirmed Tuesday that the reopening of the postal service meant that international mail would also be received.