SEVERAL customs officers in Abaco have been placed under quarantine after a worker was reportedly exposed to a COVID-19 positive patient on the island, prompting officials there to close the Customs Department at the Leonard M Thompson International Airport on Thursday.
Customs Comptroller Dr Geanine Moss confirmed to The Tribune that some three customs officers were placed on a two-week quarantine on the island after being in close contact with a co-worker, who recently had been displaying some COVID-19 symptoms.
The worker, she said, is the roommate of a positive COVID-19 patient. The Tribune understands the confirmed patient had tested positive for the virus earlier this week and had to be flown to the capital after experiencing severe symptoms.
The patient is currently being hospitalized, The Tribune was also told.
Health officials announced a new case for Abaco yesterday, but did not provide details. According to the latest dashboard, the Abaco chain now has 21 confirmed cases: 10 in Moore’s Island, nine on Great Guana Cay and two on mainland Abaco.
Yesterday, Dr Moss maintained that none of the other officers have displayed symptoms thus far.
“I have not gotten any reports that anybody else is positive,” Dr Moss said when contacted by The Tribune.
“As far as I’m concerned, the only person who is displaying any kind of symptoms is the roommate to the person who tested positive. None of the officers are displaying symptoms. However, because they were in close contact, they have been advised to stay at home and the surveillance unit has been in contact with them speaking to them about the protocols they should follow.
“It’s not many of them, it may only be three…This place (the airport) is being deep cleaned this morning..”
Sources close to The Tribune say officials are still awaiting the test result of the customs officer to decide whether or not to close the local airport, which is currently undergoing deep cleaning.
The Tribune also understands that officers there are concerned about a possible outbreak on the island, which is still experiencing challenges as a result of Hurricane Dorian last September.
“They said she was sick from last week,” one local, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Tribune. “She was working at (Marsh Harbour) dock and was transferred to the airport on Tuesday. She (allegedly) called in sick (Wednesday) because she wasn’t feeling well. The results of (her roommate) were supposed to come out Friday, but I heard they came out Tuesday and she had to get flown out.”
There have also been concerns that there are more infected people in the community.
“People walking around here with symptoms and shame to tell people, exposing everyone,” a local told the Tribune.
Attempts to reach health officials on the issue have not yet been successful.
However, when contacted yesterday, island administrator for North and Central Abaco Terrece Bootle-Laing denied claims information is being withheld, saying test samples are being sent “immediately” to the capital for further processing.
“I am in communication with the health officials and those who manage (the dashboard) and exactly what you see on the dashboard is what I’m privy to and they are monitoring the situation,” she said.
“…As it is, once persons exhibit any symptoms, they present themselves or the medical team made contact with them because of their possible exposure and they are tested, and those samples are sent into Nassau immediately and they await for the competent authority and the medical COVID team there to release the results of the test kits.”
She added: “So far, all of the samples taken for the individuals in Abaco who have been tested or being demitted to Nassau and but once they are completed with their test kits, they release to us and we are guided by the numbers on the dashboard.”
“Anything else is not available to me in terms of what the public assume or what the public may think they have privy to. I don’t go on assumption, I go on consultation and numbers and I work hand in hand with the medical teams to get information that they are prepared to release to my office.”
When asked how many people are in quarantine on the island, Mrs Bootle-Laing said just before Hurricane Isais she was informed that some 100 people on Abaco were under quarantine.