The Orange Walk District has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases over the last week. The increase has been notable as the number of positive cases has surpassed the Belize District including Ambergris Caye. It is an alarming situation as there are established clusters in the Orange Walk District. Our newsroom spoke with the Director of Health Services Dr Marvin Manzanero who indicated that among those infected are several Belize Defence Force soldiers.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Well if you notice if you go back to what’s been happening throughout the month of September we had the first streak that we basically had gone with a similar trend that happened towards August. We did have a couple days in the middle of September that we had a significant decrease if you will by half maybe to the point that when you review the data up to September 21 we only had a 4% of samples processed turning out positive. I believe we had eight cases in almost two hundred samples so that was the last one that we had under the double digits and since then it has started to increase again and we’re having numbers now in the greater than thirty in a couple of days over last week so we’re following those clusters. I do know that one of the clusters that may be driving up the numbers is the – one we’re finding a couple of BDF that were found positive toward the end of last week and they have been part of the extended contact tracing that’s happening because it may be an entire battalion that might be affected. I think that’s the group of soldiers then I don’t know what it’s called that may have been exposed to here in Orange Walk and that’s what we’re following now.
Reporter: Okay so those cases are not necessarily residents in Orange Walk but rather from that battalion that you’re doing contact tracing from ?
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Yeah. They are not necessarily from Orange Walk you are right they are from across the country but the exposure may have been because they are stationed in Orange Walk so even though they are not from there they are classified as from being from Orange Walk because we anticipate that’s where they would keep their quarantine because at this point in time it wouldn’t really make much sense for us to be sending people in a given group. What we try to do is minimize exposure so if you have an entire group that’s positive you keep them together there’s no sense in sending you home to quarantine because you’re just gonna be exposing further families across the country. That doesn’t take away from the total number I mean we are looking at the total numbers throughout Orange Walk and Corozal because as you have said it is a growing concern because the numbers are actually not decreasing it doesn’t seem to be like what’s happening on San Pedro where you had a spike, plateaued and then it went down, you still have them and cases continue to happen. But in Orange Walk it has kind of sustained after San Pedro it’s been five going on to six weeks now where we have seen more or less average numbers except for that small dip in the middle of September.”
While the number of positive cases are alarming Dr Manzanero says there are troubling factors including the cases where persons are tested positive, post-mortem.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Well you see again this is a dynamic process what we are undertaking because not only are we looking at numbers our concern is, and it came up twice, is the two deaths that happened. We had initially almost sudden deaths or post mortem diagnosis of patients in Belize City but no we’re finding a similar situation in Orange Walk. What would be troubling is also the fact that people are arriving and you’re making the diagnosis post mortem. So we have to find out what factors- I mean people on the ground have kind of hinted at what’s going on as to why people are not showing up but we have to do a better educational process perhaps. Of course you can’t capture what is not coming into the system but in terms of people showing up too late to get care I think that’s a pressing concern. I mean the two deaths yesterday are something that these are patients that are not even being referred to Karl Heusner for further care so they’re arriving rather late.”
Reporter: Why do you think that is ? Because is it that they just died or were they having other underlying conditions but didn’t seek medical attention?
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Well you’ll almost always have an underlying condition but the fact is that even if you have an underlying condition if you seek medical care that is prompt then you perhaps shouldn’t be having that outlook. I’m not saying that you still would not have patients that die but then the result could perhaps be different we will never know because we don’t have that option of knowing. So in the cases we are finding again the same issues we have highlighted: hypertension, obesity, diabetes or diagnosis of diabetes is just recently made or made almost upon arrival at the hospital or people who didn’t know that they had high blood pressure until you get to the hospital and have this as a result. We see it on the ground that people are having that – many factors that are driving people as to why they don’t seek medical care promptly one is fear I mean people are just afraid people just don’t want to know, stigmatization and not knowing perhaps although one can say that there’s been many educational but people are still going to be afraid I guess of the unknown. Kind of with HIV and even with chronic disease like diabetes there are people out there who would tell you they might have the classic signs and symptoms and will tell you “I don’t want to know whether I’m diabetic or not.” those things happen.”
There is a new Statutory Instrument pending which will have adjustments to the previous one, particularly the section where the Director of Health Services was being mandated to release the names of Covid-19 patients. The new SI according to Dr Marvin Manzanero is imminent as the airport is reopening tomorrow and the SI will include some amendments in that regard.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I believe there’s a new SI being worked on that will have to come into effect because of what happens at the airport tomorrow. So I believe we should be on the lookout for that new regulation.”
Reporter: Would that be today or tomorrow ?
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I believe that should be today. In terms of that specific SI we did send some notes to the Sol Gen because we’re trying to see what amendments we need make to the quarantine form that was in place since April for people arriving in the country and it has to come into effect tomorrow before the plane lands.”