Government Commissioner of St. Eustatius Marnix van Rij wearing a face mask.
ST. EUSTATIUS--The microbiologist who arrived in St. Eustatius from Bonaire on Thursday, September 3, to instruct the medical staff at Queen Beatrix Medical Centre (QBMC) on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing device tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, September 6, Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij said.
The man was immediately placed in isolation at an official accommodation. Eleven persons who were in close contact with him on Friday and Saturday were tested on Sunday. Of these essential workers 10 persons tested negative and one tested positive. This person and his family were immediately put in isolation.
Currently, there are three positive COVID-19 cases in Statia. The first case concerned a repatriated Statia resident who returned from the Dominican Republic. This person is still in isolation. As a precaution, the 11 persons that were in close contact with him on Friday and Saturday were also tested.
Van Rij said there are strong indications that the microbiologist tested positive after contact with the essential worker. “That is why contact-tracing and testing is taking place now,” Van Rij stated.
Everyone who was in contact with the microbiologist is either an essential worker at QBMC or the local government.
Outside his quarantine location, the essential worker strictly followed appropriate protocol and wore a face mask at all times, Van Rij said. “The chance that he has infected people on the island is minimal.”
Everyone who came into contact with the worker was immediately tested for COVID-19. The persons who tested negative will be retested on Friday, September 11, as a control measure.
St. Eustatius Healthcare Foundation (SEHCF) and Public Health Department Director Dr. Gerard Berkel said QBMC has taken several measures in light of the recent developments. These measures will be in place for 12 days.
The general public is advised to limit visits to QBMC as much as possible unless it is absolutely necessary or in case of an emergency.
“If you do have an emergency, we advise persons to call the hospital first, during which a nurse will perform a triage. The nurse will contact the doctor to discuss that person’s case and after that the person will be informed about actions to be taken,” Berkel said. “If you are visiting the hospital in case of an emergency, we are advising you that only one family member will be allowed on the premises during that emergency visit.” This is to limit the number of persons visiting QBMC.
The working hours at the laboratory have been adjusted in close collaboration with the Health Department. Blood samples will be taken 7:00-10:00am on appointment basis. Lab staff will be performing different tests in the afternoon. Because of the adjusted operations it might take a while longer for patients to receive their test results. QBMC is requesting the public’s patience and understanding in this regard.
Only one doctor will be available for urgent care and emergencies. The other doctors will be conducting consultations by telephone. Together with the patient they will establish whether a physical visit to QBMC is necessary. Physical visits will also be made by appointment only.
Everyone with a planned appointment for this week will be informed by telephone that they do not have to come to QBMC. In consultation with the patient and his/her primary care physician it will be determined whether he or she needs to come to QBMC.
Berkel said that besides the 11 persons, four other hospital workers also had been in close contact with the microbiologist. These four individuals have also been tested. They all tested negative for COVID-19, but as a safety precaution it was decided to have these persons tested daily for the coming 12 days. As an extra precaution they will also be required to wear a mask when entering the medical centre.
“We are also advising the general public, especially during the upcoming 12 days, to pay keen attention to the instructions you will be receiving from the security guards posted at the hospital entrance and by the front desk staff to ensure your safety and the safety of the workers at the hospital,” he said.
Detailed information about the adapted services will be communicated through SEHCF’s Facebook page.
“The local government assures Statia residents that this matter is taken very seriously and that the safety of the people of St. Eustatius is our highest priority,” Van Rij said.
The public entity St. Eustatius’ chief medical officer Dr. Gerwin Schobbe said the essential worker had been tested before travelling to Statia from Bonaire. He was also tested in Statia on Friday. This test was also negative. As he was scheduled to fly to Saba on Sunday to instruct medical staff at A.M. Edwards Medical Centre in The Bottom on PCR testing, the man was tested a third time. This test came back positive, Schobbe explained.
The Public Health Department is conducting contact-tracing to determine who all had contact with the essential workers who tested positive for COVID-19.