COVID-19 RADIO ADDRESS By Hon. Edwin A. Astwood Minister of Health, Agriculture, Sports, & Human Services

I want to begin by thanking all our frontline Health Care Workers, and those frontline workers in Law Enforcement, and all other Critical Services Workers throughout the Turks & Caicos Islands. I also want to thank all the high level government officials for the countless hours they put in for protecting our Nation, and for providing direction for our war on COVID-19.

I want to briefly give some information for protecting yourself and your family during this time. But first I am going to give some information from our COVID-19 Situation Report; the number of confirmed COVID-19 Positive canes remain at 5. An additional 9 samples were tested, and I am happy to report that all 9 were NEGATIVE. This is good news, but not news for us to become complacent. We all know by now that the virus is transported by droplets; when someone sneezes or caught. And we know that the spray of droplets emitted at these time can travel as far as six feet, or more.

In Addition, we need to know that droplets can be expelled whenever we talk or laugh in such a way that causes a light spray to be emitted. With these droplet, close contact is generally needed for transmitted. These droplets can also contaminate surfaces like tables, and door knobs by way of hands, which can then be picked up by unsuspecting individuals.

Close contact is defined by the Center for Disease Prevention & Control (CDC) as:

a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare facility waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case.

– or –

b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on). 

Therefore, if we want to avoid getting in contact with this coronavirus, we must then avoid getting in close contacted contact with; not only persons who tested positive for the virus or one who is a suspected case, but also those that may be infected with the virus, and don’t know that are, we call that being “asymptomatic”.

The Best, and most effective, way to avoid this coronavirus is to STAY AT HOME.

Only, if absolutely necessary, leave your home to get what is needed. In doing so one should continue practicing the necessary Social distancing and hand hygiene protocols, and one may put on a face mask for extra protection, and after completing the task; immediately return home.

If you live with others, practice Social Distancing in the house or apartment also. You need to protect your family, and can this by also putting in measures like; assigned bathrooms, no sharing of utensils, identify who prepares meals, identify the individual do the grocery shopping, having your cleaning and disinfecting schedules in place.

If someone in the home is showing mild symptoms, or has been in contact with a known or suspected case; institute the wearing of a face mask in the home, and contact the health officials for further guidance.

The CDC defines social distancing in the following way:

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”

Some may ask “What is the reasons for social distancing”? What are the benefits to myself and my community?

Social distancing is simply a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people, in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission.

With COVID-19, the goal of social distancing right now is to slow down the outbreak in order to reduce the chance of infection among high-risk populations and to reduce the burden on our health care systems and Frontline workers.

"If social distancing can be successfully executed in the Turks & Caicos, then there will be far less people testing positive for this coronavirus, and far less people presenting with the COVID-19 disease; hence far less people needing hospitalization and critical medical care at any one time."

Therefore, we may continue to see increases in positive cases, unless, we allow the impact of our social distancing, and quarantine measures to run its course.

I want to emphasize that; “The more we stay from each other, the less the burden will be on our health system, our health workers, and other frontline workers, and the less burden on our country on a whole.

” We know that times of Crises push technology, innovation, abilities and adaptabilities. Hence this quarantine period also gives us time to greatly scale up our health care system so we can increase our ability to safely treat more people, and scale up our public Health system; so that we can do more contract tracing, testing, isolation, and quarantine on a large basis, so that when we do come out of quarantine, and if there is another spike, we will be better equipped and experienced to quickly mitigate against this virus.

We will continue to raise COVID-19 awareness, and in a later release I will focus on how our bodies can fight off the virus, but at this time I need to touch on a negative occurrence that is beginning to occur; we must resist and desist from engaging in Stigma and Discrimination.

Stigma and Discrimination in any form is bad and unnecessary, but especially in relation to COVID-19 at this time. This is something that should be discourage by all. Instead, let us support, uplift, and encourage one and other, and we who have faith in God know that this too shall pass.

I firmly believe that if we all act responsible, and if we work together, adhere to all the public health guidelines, and the social distancing measures that were instituted, we would have a real shot of defeating this coronavirus, and the Turks & Caicos Islands would survive this COVID-19 pandemic. May God continue to protect you, and continue to protect the Turks &Caicos Islands.