Our neighborhood is so quiet that you can hear a pin drop. Everyone is staying home, and no one is making a sound. There is very little traffic. The birds seem to be singing much more loudly; they are almost muted sometimes by the human noise. Now the volume is up on nature sounds in general.
This is unusual, even for a Sunday. On social media (and traditional media) however, there is never a dull moment. We were jolted out of our serenity by a tweet about a Jamaica Gleaner front page story, quoting (in quotation marks) Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton as saying that some health workers had tested positive for COVID-19, and that these were not included in the 19 positive cases reported to date.
Well, our revered “Old Lady of North Street” (in fact, the oldest media house and the oldest company in Jamaica) then decided to backtrack a little. No, it was not a retraction, nor was it an apology. It was rather putting the onus back on the Ministry, who “clarified comments.” The original article seems to have been removed from their web page. They have shifted their angle to “Will the Minister get tested?”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine, after having contact with a doctor who has since tested positive for COVID-19. I found her words encouraging. She urged the German people to exercise “Vernunft und Herz.” In translation, this means “Sense (or Reason) and Heart (or Empathy).”
Let’s have more Vernunft und Herz in all our interactions, please. That goes for those opining on social media, those making public pronouncements…and our journalists, too. For all those working in our health systems at this time, I am sending lots of HERZ.
Well, below is the press release from Ministry of Health and Wellness, in response to the original Gleaner article. This was preceded by two separate statements, from the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association and from the Nurses Association of Jamaica, denying that any of their members had tested positive.
KINGSTON, Jamaica. March 22, 2020: With reference to the Gleaner article published on Sunday, March 22, entitled “Doctors, Nurses Test positive for COVID-19,” we do acknowledge that an interview was given by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Honourable Christopher Tufton, MP. During the interview with the Sunday Gleaner, a range of questions were posed and answers given on several matters, including general testing of persons and frontline healthcare workers, and whether these tests were positive and included in the announced 19 cases.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to emphatically state that no doctor, nurse or any member of the frontline staff in the public health system or private practice in Jamaica has tested positive for COVID-19 and that there are no healthcare workers excluded from the count of positive cases in Jamaica.
Some members of the frontline staff have been in quarantine, due to exposure to COVID-19 cases in Jamaica, but all have tested negative and are serving the quarantine period of 14 days.
To safeguard our first responders, including nurses and doctors, Jamaica has established a protocol to randomly test our healthcare team for COVID-19 and those who may have unknowingly come in contact with a suspected COVID-19 case, they undergo the requisite quarantine and testing protocols.
At the same time, through the daily media briefings, press releases, interviews and snapshot dashboards, the Ministry has been fully transparent, as it relates to the number of persons tested for COVID-19, those in quarantine, isolation and the number of persons, who would have come to Jamaica from a country of interest.
As at Friday March 20, Jamaica has tested a total 89 cases at the National Influenza Centre, 19 cases have come back positive and 70 have been negative for COVID-19.