The SLP MARCH and COVID-19

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John Peters

“We cannot fight a civil war in the midst of a pandemic, and those who are stoking this foolishness that a march by the Opposition is the reason for this sudden increase should be called out. We have a serious situation on our hands, our health sector may be on the verge of collapse, our economy is under tremendous stress, we need to come together as a nation,’’ John Peters.

Dear Sir

The above was in my last post and which caused a phone call to be made to me by an individual whose intellect I highly regard. He asked why I described such comments on the march as foolishness and whether there was a probability that the march may have caused the sudden spread. It was a fair question. He proffered that the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) would have scored more political points by cancelling the march.

In the conversation, I told him that I am a scientist by training, and the science and the maths will drive how I look at these things. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA has defined ‘Epidemiologic linkage as follows:

One or more of the following exposures in the 14 days before the onset of symptoms:

Close contact** with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 disease; OR Close contact** with a person with:

  • Clinically compatible illness AND
  • Linkage to a confirmed case of COVID-19 disease.
  • Travel to or residence in an area with sustained, ongoing community transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Member of a risk cohort as defined by public health authorities during an outbreak.

**Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for at least a period of 10 minutes to 30 minutes or more depending upon the exposure. In healthcare settings, this may be defined as exposures of greater than a few minutes or more. Data are insufficient to precisely define the duration of exposure that constitutes prolonged exposure and thus a close contact.

So, let us look at the events that took place at the march in an objective way. The march lasted for more than 30 minutes, there were people closer than 6 ft apart and thus it has to be defined as a ‘close contact event of high risk’ and therefore should not have been approved by the chief medical officer (CMO). Since we have now confirmed that close contact was established, we now have to find a confirmed COVID-19 case who was present in the march, to bring credence to any statement that the march caused the recent upsurge. Further, if there was a COVID-19 positive case at the march, then it is highly improbable that only one person would have been infected, given how contagious the disease is.

An epidemiologic linkage would only be clearly established if several persons in the march were tested positive around the same time. The recent super-spreader event at the White House is a clear example of how one identifies such distinct epidemiologic linkages.

The evidence that has been presented so far by the ministry of health does not support the conclusion drawn of connectivity of the march to the sudden increase in cases. While there was a serious effort to ensure that participants wore their masks during the march, it cannot be dismissed that it was a very high – risk event. Yet, though that is clearly established, there is no science to bring it into the sphere of being the super-spreader, that is now being pushed for political reasons.

We have been given several hypotheses to date, we have been told about the ‘back door’ and yet, somehow, the fishermen are immune to the disease. We have been told that it was the SLP march and the link is not there. Those who do not support the government speak of the ‘front door’ as the gateway. I fully support closing the back door and leaving the front door open.

I will close by repeating that we cannot fight a civil war in the midst of a pandemic, and the country is yearning for ‘Churchill leadership’ to bring our nation together to deal with the greatest crisis we have ever faced.

By John Peters

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