(ROYAL GAZETTE) – A sixth Covid-19 related death was recorded in Bermuda, the Premier confirmed last night.
It was understood the person was a resident at the Westmeath Residential and Nursing Home, where 13 cases, including two staff members, were confirmed earlier.
David Burt said yesterday: “The confirmation of the passing of another individual today is incredibly sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family, at this difficult time.
“I have been the strongest advocate for testing, as it would better position the Government to not only be able to protect the health and safety of Bermuda, but to also make informed policy decisions about how we operate, in this radically changed environment.
“This government’s policy has been clear and undiluted: any affected rest home, their residents and staff should be tested and in the case of Westmeath, our aim was to ensure that testing occur as swiftly as possible.
“My directive on that point was equally as clear, but regrettably that did not occur. The Ministry of Health has performed a tremendous service to our country, but in this scenario, we all recognise that there have been lessons learnt; I am satisfied that the testing regime and criteria is now reflective of the nature of this pandemic.”
He added: “Bermuda today has the testing capacity and supplies we need, and in fact, 373 tests were performed this weekend, at our new drive-through facility.
“This dramatic increase in testing has enabled us to provide many of our essential workers with the reassurance that they have not contracted Covid-19.
“There is no denying the importance of testing and this government will spare no effort to address this threat to our community, with a rigorous approach to testing and the invaluable knowledge it brings.”
Health minister Kim Wilson said today: “On behalf of my entire team at the Ministry of Health, I want to extend my sincere condolences to the family and friends of this individual. We know you must be hurting deeply right now; and Bermuda grieves with you.”
The Ministry of Health said the weekend’s testing results and daily statistics would be released at this evening’s press conference.
News of a Westmeath resident’s death was first reported on the website TNN Bermuda, which explained that families received written communication from the Pembroke home.
TNN said that relatives were told: “It is with deep regret that I inform you that we have lost one of our beloved residents today related to Covid-19 complications.
“We have shared our condolences with the family. We have no words at this time and will aim to communicate with you tomorrow.”
A government update over the weekend showed that 223 Covid-19 test results were received on Friday and Saturday, with ten positive — all residents at Westmeath.
Mr Burt appealed to frontline workers on Twitter yesterday to take the chance to get tested for Covid-19 at the drive-through facility in St David’s, where he said there were “many spots” available for today.
He tweeted earlier that it was hoped 120 people would be tested at the station on Saturday.
The Premier wrote later that day: “Today we got 84 more people, but we were under capacity
“So we are opening up booking to all essential workers in Bermuda.”
He added: “Hospital staff, healthcare workers, police officers, fire service, regiment, prison officers, grocery&pharmacy staff, gas stations, utility workers [electricity, communications, water], security officers, and stevedores, and other essentials; please book your test.”
The government website showed yesterday that 1,173 people in total were tested for the virus by 3pm on Saturday, with 109 confirmed cases, of which 65 were active. It said that 11 people were in hospital, 54 were under active public health monitoring and 39 were recovered.
The average age of people in hospital was 74, and the ages ranged between 57 and 91.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, revealed on Friday that tests had been carried out on 116 residents and 136 staff members at four of the island’s 21 care homes.
Those include the Matilda Smith Williams Seniors Residence in Devonshire, which has also been hit by the coronavirus.
Ms Wilson refused to identify the other two homes where tests were carried out.
At a press conference on Friday, the minister criticised The Royal Gazette for reporting the Westmeath results that afternoon. She said on Saturday: “There have been questions regarding why we did not release these figures at last night’s press conference.”
Ms Wilson added: “The answer is that it would have been unethical and insensitive of us to release them publicly before ensuring that the affected persons and their families and doctors were informed first.
“We cannot rush the correct process to satisfy the thirst for information.
“I ask those who are critical of this approach to imagine how you would feel and react if your family member were a resident in a care home and you heard on the news there was ‘x amount’ of positive cases there.”
Ms Wilson also responded to criticism on why the Government did not notify people when it received its first positive case connected to Westmeath.
She said: “That case did not involve a resident, was appropriately contained and, in fact, as it turned out, this case was not linked to the second or third cases. We do not want to create unfounded fear among or stigma towards any facility.
“Investigations were carried out and risk was appropriately contained after the first case. When and if there is a public health risk in any setting, the Ministry of Health will inform the public through official channels.”
The minister said the media had asked many questions which may “indirectly disclose the identity of positive cases”.
She said: “This is a risk we simply cannot take. Public health reporting relies on a foundation of trust between the public and public health officials. If people feel they cannot trust public health officials to protect their identity and information, they will not be truthful in their reporting.
“With all medical information, there is patient confidentiality that the Ministry of Health and the Government as a whole must protect and respect.”
Ms Wilson said naming organisations could easily identify people in a small community such as Bermuda.
The minister responded to criticism that the residents and staff at Westmeath were not tested after the first and second positive cases were identified.
She said: “It was because the characteristics of the case did not warrant testing at the time. When these occurred, the case criteria, which is linked to testing capacity, were not met.
“Since that time, Bermuda’s testing capacity has been significantly bolstered and the Government’s policy is to test all residents and staff at all rest homes, which is being done now.
“Residents and staff at four rest homes have been tested, and all rest homes will be completed to ensure that we identify any possible outbreaks.”
Ms Wilson said the ministry is in constant communication with private care homes to make sure they follow standards and requirements.
She said an affected resident’s GP, or a doctor associated with the home, informs the resident and their family members of test results.