Cayman, COVID & the untold story
It's not often that a small dive operator would be inclined to publicly disagree with the mighty New York Times but as Cayman has been featured, for a full week now, at the very top of their list for the increase in daily average COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people we have been feeling a little peeved. A few days ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved us to the Level 4 list of countries with a "very high level of COVID-19" and is currently advising against travel to the region. All of this happening only 10 days before we admit the first (vaccinated) tourists since the islands closed in March 2020.
We aren't arguing that the rate of community transmission has increased from zero to it definitely happening. We aren't arguing that as a country we have lost our Covid-free status (in the form of community transmission). We are arguing that we would like the story behind the statistics to be discussed publicly as much as the figures themselves. Because, frankly, we don't think they make much sense.
If you're reading this then you will likely know that in March 2020 the Cayman Islands Government closed our borders to outside visitors and, since then, the approach has been to get as many people as possible vaccinated to gain herd immunity and avoid mass hospitalisations and death. The medical infrastructure wouldn't be able to cope with anything less. The result is that Cayman is the only country in the world that kept borders closed until we achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. At time of writing the official vaccination rate is 81% (one dose) and 78% (two doses), with Government confidence that we will achieve 80% of the population having received a double vaccine by 20 November - the date our border restrictions are due to be eased. We would say this has been a huge success!
As of 8am on Friday 12 November we have 2,849 active cases of Covid-19 on Cayman. And just 18 of these cases are in the hospital (that's 0.63% of cases hospitalised, or 0.025% of the population). Dr John Lee (Chief Medical Officer) has put these numbers in the context of increased testing throughout the community including use of lateral flow tests.
What the NYT and CDC figures do not say is that WE ARE NOT SICK! They also don't say that we are undertaking mass testing on a scale not seen in any other country at any stage. Between 8am on Thursday 11 November and 8am on Friday 12 November a total of 1,708 PCR tests were conducted. That is 2.4% of our current population in just 24 hours (and this figure does not include lateral flow tests). Whereas the overall rate of infection (as it currently stands) is just 4%. Find us another country able to test on this scale. Find us another country where asymptomatic cases are included in the infection statistics to the degree they are included in Cayman.
Let's look at the people who are currently being cared for in hospital. In the last report given by Premier Wayne Panton it was shared that of these only 3 have been vaccinated; "This proves that our high percentage of those vaccinated is helping". So 80%+ of the population have had one dose of the vaccine, and 80%+ of hospitalised cases have not been vaccinated. Dr Lee also explained that some of the hospitalisations might not be deemed necessary in other jurisdictions, but the patients were admitted due to the Health Services Authority (HSA) taking a cautious approach.
We are a small island nation, but a perfect scientific experiment for the world to see. We didn't get Covid-19 here until close to an 80% vaccination rate. We are now experiencing our first wave and though the outbreak is young the indications are that the approach has worked. What else can explain a high Covid infection rate and yet very low numbers of hospitalisations and deaths. No other country has statistics as clear cut as ours, they have had to deal with vaccination campaigns whilst dealing with outbreaks. The number of positive cases we have might look bad in the short term but, in the longer term, it can show the world that we had a huge outbreak with relatively minor repercussions.
From the moment the vaccines were rolled out internationally the CDC has told the world that it won't stop us from contracting Covid, but it will lessen our chances of becoming seriously sick and requiring hospital care. The world media has been telling us for over a year that a vaccine will end this pandemic. Well Cayman listened, and now we are labelled a dangerous country to visit when we have one of the highest vaccination rates? Makes no sense to us.
If you don't believe us then look at this chart - COVID Live Update: 251,966,673 Cases and 5,085,397 Deaths from the Coronavirus - Worldometer (worldometers.info) - we are currently (Sunday 14 November) placed at #198 for total number of cases in a single country worldwide. This doesn't tell us much to be fair as we have a small population, but look at the total number of cases per 1 million population - we are placed #103. And I am willing to bet that not one of the 102 listed above us is testing as much as we are able to do.
This is a unique situation where the figures definitely do not speak for themselves and we would like the world to know that it's safe to travel here, it's safe to live here, and we would like others to join us in a more optimistic view of what our figures actually represent.