STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
DELTA VARIANT IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
August 16, 2021
Mister Speaker, just last week Thursday I gave an update on the impact of COVID-19 in this Honourable House. I started off that statement by acknowledging the community effort that it took to get us to a place where we could breathe a small sigh of relief because of the downturn in positive COVID-19 cases in the Territory.
Mr. Speaker I am pleased to report that as at Sunday August 15, we have 42 active cases. Thirty-two cases on Tortola, nine on Virgin Gorda and one on a marine vessel. There were two new admissions to the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital just yesterday, bringing our total number of persons in hospital to nine (9). Great strides have been and continue to be made by all of us as a collective team to arrest the outbreak and reduce transmission of this virus. For this I want to say thank you!
As we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, I want to talk to you about the Delta variant that was recently confirmed in the Territory and what that means for us moving forward.
Mr Speaker, to better understand the significance of Delta reaching our shores, we first must understand what makes Delta so much of a concern. The Delta variant is highly contagious or has increased transmissibility according to the WHO and the CDC. Delta has accounted for more than 80% of new cases in the United States and recent research has found that the Delta variant grows more rapidly and to much greater levels in the respiratory track, making it potentially more fatal that the initial virus. This has the ability to translate into a catastrophe for a small community like ours, especially because our vaccination levels are not where they need to be in order to protect us.
As a Territory we are still mourning the loss of loved ones and picking up the pieces from the first wave of COVID. We cannot afford for a second wave and especially a delta wave! The Delta wave could wreak havoc over our community. It is for this reason that we cannot let down our guard down especially now that we have confirmed that one COVID-19 sample out of 19 sent for genetic testing on August 4th, returned positive for the Delta variant. The positive case had no travel history and the household included two other positive contacts one of whom met criteria for sequencing and tested negative for the Delta variant. These cases and contacts were all quarantined and cleared in accordance with established protocols.
Mr. Speaker, the good news is that according to the samples that were taken we had a case of Delta that was contact traced, isolated and mitigated in the Territory. The bad news is that the positive case didn’t have a travel history, therefore, we can assume that the Delta variant may still be and is likely to be lurking within the territory.
We have heard from the health experts over and over again about the severity of illness that could occasion this variant. We heard the experts continue to admonish the community to comply with protocols and get vaccinated.
We heard the experts say that we must remain vigilant and continue to do the things that allowed us to reduce the positive cases and arrest the spread of this virus.
Therefore Mr. Speaker, I am pleading with you to continue to wear your mask. Continue to wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Continue to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Continue to limit gathering sizes. Continue to maintain physical distance and get vaccinated because it really is your best defense against this disease that has claimed the lives of millions worldwide since the start of this pandemic.
Universally, studies are showing that the Delta variant is affecting unvaccinated persons at a much greater percentage than persons who are vaccinated. Typically vaccinated people are either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms if they do come in contact with the Delta variant. In the United States, as of July 22, 2021 ninety-seven percent (97%) of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated, this again is according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC). Locally, our very own statistics have provided us with similar results. The majority of those adversely affected by COVID were unvaccinated, this is why, I as your Minister for Health will continue to encourage the unvaccinated persons in our community to get vaccinated. Don’t be regretful! Don’t wait until you are adversely affected by COVID to say that you should have gotten vaccinated. We are not out of the woods!
Mr. Speaker, we are now seeing that a growing number of young people are dying from this disease. Don’t assume that your youth will protect you. Don’t assume that your health will protect you. This disease is revealing health issues that persons did not even know were there. Don’t let too late be your cry. Protect yourself; protect each other and; protect the community by getting vaccinated today! Being vaccinated could prevent hospitalization and could save your life tomorrow.
I also want to take this time to make an appeal to vaccinated persons to also continue to follow protocols and guidelines to assist mitigation efforts. As you are aware, the vaccine does not make you immune to catching the virus. What is does, is it lowers your vulnerability to the virus and if you do catch it, it significantly reduces its impact and almost eliminates the possibility of hospitalization and even death.
Mr Speaker, we continue to advocate that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective and is among the best vaccines available on the market today. Don’t hesitate, make up your mind to get vaccinated, make up your mind to protect yourself, your parents, children, siblings, friends and the community. Make up your mind to create your best defense against COVID because it obvious that it will be in the same for years to come.
Mr Speaker, we have to live with COVID, work with COVID, go to school with COVID but we CANNOT play with COVID. So, it would make sense for us to protect ourselves from COVID by following the protocols and guidelines and by getting vaccinated!
As a Territory we want to achieve herd immunity. We don’t want anyone else to suffer the devastating blows of this virus. Let us show COVID-19 that we are not playing around either. Let us show COVID that we will stand unified as a community and protect ourselves, each other, the economy and the Territory from its ravages.
Up until late June we had done great as a Territory keeping the virus at bay, with lock downs, restricting travel into the country and associated quarantine measures. Though effective, these measures have taken a toll on us financially. It has caused many businesses to close, many persons to be jobless and has had a huge impact on the finances of the country. We cannot continue to lockdown and shut down, therefore our best offense is to have a great defense and to be prepared for any eventuality of COVID-19.
Mr Speaker, the messages are simple -- defend yourself from this enemy. Defend your family, defend your friends and defend all the lives and livelihoods that are at stake. I urge you to remain vigilant! Today it may be Delta, tomorrow Lamda and next week another variant of concern. The safety protocols that have proven to be effective must never be forgotten.
Again Mister Speaker, I don’t mean to sound like a stuck record but I must urge everyone to continue to follow all public health protocols such as wearing your face masks. Continue to practice frequent hand hygiene. Continue to maintain physical distance in public spaces and continue to use every opportunity that is presented to you to get vaccinated as it is our best tool to reduce the transmission of the virus and save the lives of our people. Continue to follow isolation and quarantine orders. Continue to disclose your COVID status and continue to be honest about persons that you have come in contact with if you have tested positive for COVID-19.
Rest assured that we will continue to work with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to submit and monitor the positive samples discovered with the mandated CT value lower than 25, for sequencing and further surveillance for the Delta variant and any other variants of concern. We will do our part to keep you protected as best we can, but I remind you that each of us have a part to play in keeping our community safe.
Remember Mr Speaker, we are not out of the woods! We will get through this together and we will return our Territory back to the Territory that we know; the Territory that we love and the territory that we miss. We pray that everyone will stay safe and May God continue to bless our beautiful Virgin Islands.
Thank you Mr Speaker.