Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee confirmed Friday that a third locally transmitted COVID-19 case has been detected, following contact tracing relating to two people who tested positive Thursday.
Lee, speaking at a government press briefing, said the forensics laboratory had confirmed that the two people, from the same household, who tested positive Thursday had the Delta variant of the virus.
Both had the “exact same viral strain”, he said.
So far, 49 other contacts of the two original patients have been tested and all were negative, he said. The contacts have all been placed in isolation.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez noted that none of three COVID-positive individuals nor the 49 contacts had travelled within the past month.
Lee, speaking over Zoom while in isolation after returning from overseas, said contact tracing of all three positive cases would continue over the weekend.
One of the three remains in hospital, where they are being treated for medical issues other than COVID, while the other two are isolating at their homes. All are doing well, Lee said.
The first two individuals were vaccinated, while the third was unvaccinated, health officials said Friday.
Lee also confirmed that no children who had come into contact with the positive cases had tested positive as of Friday.
Children who have come into contact with the positive patients have been taken out of school and are currently doing remote learning, Premier Wayne Panton said.
Cayman Airways passenger incident
The premier addressed an incident in which a passenger on a Cayman Airways flight from Jamaica, who had tested positive prior to boarding, was allowed to fly into Cayman on the airline on Thursday.
Panton, at the briefing, thanked the Customs and Border Control officer who had spotted the anomaly.
Fabian Whorms, CEO of Cayman Airways, laid out some procedural changes that the airline was making to ensure there should be no repeat of the incident.
He said PCR test results are usually screened by Cayman Airways staff or its handling agents at the departure airports.
“We’re very surprised to have found that a situation actually arose where someone boarded the flight with a positive test result,” he said, adding that the airline would be investigating the matter to determine how the existing checking procedure was compromised.
Whorms added that he hoped that the airline would get to the bottom of how the passenger was allowed to board by Saturday.
He also confirmed that the passenger and travelling companion were currently in government quarantine, with GPS monitoring in place.
The airline CEO said the cabin crew on Thursday’s Kingston-Grand Cayman flight, and all other flights, were protected with personal protective equipment and social distancing, and Public Health staff had determined that the crew had not encountered risks “over and above” those they normally would experience.
He also noted that all Cayman Airways crews were vaccinated.
Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan indicated that the matter would also be referred to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, as it is a contravention of existing regulations for a traveller to enter Cayman without a negative PCR test.
Panton said this incident, as well as the three locally transmitted cases, had allowed Cayman to review the performance of its COVID-19 response operations, and it had begun to update policies and procedures “to strengthen our systems”.
“These incidents show us that we could be exposed to the virus at any time,” he said, “so we must continue to take precautions by practising good public health and hygiene, by wearing a mask, especially while indoors, washing hands regularly, avoiding large groups as much as possible, particularly indoors, and underpinning all these measures, getting vaccinated.”
He said it was clear that over the past couple of days, it was evident that more people were wearing masks, and there had been an uptick in the number of people getting vaccinated.
He also urged uniform frontline staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Lee reported that, following approval by Public Health England for British Overseas Territories to begin using the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines for boosters, Cayman would soon begin offering booster shots to elderly and vulnerable individuals.
Governor Martyn Roper said talks were already going on with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office regarding bringing in supplies of vaccines for boosters to Cayman.
He also stated that two experts from Public Health England, who have experience dealing with Overseas Territories that have been dealing with COVID outbreaks, will be engaging in a Zoom call with the Cayman Islands Government’s Cabinet on Monday.
Saying that Cayman was “in as good a position to deal with COVID-19 as any country in the world”, he urged people to remain calm and not to take part in panic buying, as has been seen in the last two days.
Health Minister Sabrina Turner said she was encouraged by the turnout at vaccine clinics in the last couple of days, stating that 229 people were vaccinated on Thursday evening at the West Bay Health Clinic, including 209 who received their first doses.
Those scenes of people lining up outside the clinic waiting to get their shots were repeated on Friday, as individuals joined a long queue at the Health City vaccination clinic in Camana Bay.
Turner said during the morning session at that clinic, 290 people were vaccinated, with 230 getting their first shots. The numbers for the afternoon session were not available by the time the press conference was held.
The clinic is open from 10am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7:30pm on Saturday.
Low risk of serious illness for children
Asked what steps could to be taken to protect children under 12, who currently cannot be vaccinated, Lee said the chances of a child dying from COVID was one in 500,000, and of getting ill enough to be admitted to an intensive care unit was one in 40,000.
He noted that there are an estimated 9,000 children under the age of 12 in Cayman, “so we are looking at exceedingly small chances, because children do… very much better than the older age groups”.
He added, “It still remains the case that the more people are vaccinated around the children, that’s how we protect them.”
Miss Cayman pageant postponed
In response to the latest local cases, Tourism Minister Bryan announced that the Miss Cayman Universe pageant, which had been scheduled to take place Saturday night, had been postponed “out of an abundance of caution”.
No date has been set for when the pageant may go ahead.
The government has been urging people not to attend large gatherings, at least until the source of the infection in the three local cases can be identified.