BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE SEPTEMBER 22, 2020

Premier Burt COVID-19 Update 22 September

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Good afternoon Bermuda; and Thank you Members of the Media for your attendance. Today I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will lead our weekly update on the continuing public health emergency.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 1117 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for COVID-19.

The new positive case is an imported case in a resident having arrived on BA 2233 on 16 September 2020. This case is also a close contact of a known case and has been quarantined since arrival.

Bermuda now has 181 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 167 have recovered, and
  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years.

Overall, 51% of cases were Black, 42% White and 7% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 70 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.
Following the departure of Hurricane Teddy from the area, the COVID-19 hotline re-opened today at 9am to ensure Travel Authorizations were processed in a timely manner and to coordinate the rescheduling of testing from Monday. The Perot testing facility also re-opened today at 10am to accommodate persons who missed their COVID-19 test on Monday due to the hurricane.

I wish to commend the Ministry staff, and the lab, for effectively ‘doubling up’ on testing efforts today to ensure there were no gaps in testing and minimal inconvenience to travelers.

Once again, the Ministry of Health is reminding residents that all restaurant patrons must wear a mask at all times when not seated at their table. This includes entering the premises and exiting, as well as when using the restroom. The wearing of masks in these instances is compulsory and dining establishments are required to enforce these rules. For more information about mask-wearing or anything related to COVID-19 please go to coronavirus.gov.bm.

For our mental and physical health it’s important to be active and social, but we must be clear on the risks involved. I would like to remind people about the activity guide posted on the Government website which details some activities on the high and low risk scale.

For example, low risk activities include walking or biking outdoors, which can be with friends if you stay 6 feet apart. Another low-risk activity is dining outdoors, provided that tables are 6 feet apart and diners avoid high-touch items like menus.

Low to medium risk activities include picnicking outside with friends, so long as you keep 6 feet from others, keep groups small, wear masks, and don’t share food or utensils.

Going to the beach and swimming in a pool also fall into this category so long as you physical distance from others, avoid locker rooms, and spend most of your time in motion.

Medium risk activities include a children’s playdate outside, so long as you keep groups small, don’t share food and wear masks.

Conversely, activities that are Medium to high risk include socializing outside with a large group. The more people, the more likely you may be exposed. You should physical distance and wear masks.

Going to the gym is also a medium to high risk activity, but there are many things you can and should do to minimize the risk, which are listed on the guidance note for gyms at coronavirus.gov.bm.

High risk activities include visiting elderly parents or friends who are high-risk for COVID-19. Avoid physical contact with them and meet outside if possible. Don’t visit them if you have symptoms, have been exposed, or might be sick.

Very high risk activities include attending a big party indoors or being in a large gathering or dense crowds. Avoid these at all costs, unless strictly necessary.

It is more important than ever that we each play our part in keeping our community safe. It’s not by luck that we have avoided community spread so far; it is through our hard work and diligent efforts to follow Government guidelines and directions.

And, finally, a request to parents – please remind your children to respect and adhere to physical distancing guidelines when it comes to public transport – whether riding on public transport or waiting for it.

I end by reminding us all to avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and Thank You.

Thank You Minister.

One note from our cabinet meeting today, is that we will be extending the hours for liquor licensed establishments. Currently those establishments must close at midnight that will be pushed back to 2AM.  It is important to note that enforcement is still critical and any establishment not following the rules will be subject to a closer order

It has been a long journey to opening schools for the 2020/21 school year.  I am pleased that given the recent closures of schools due to Hurricanes Paulette and Teddy, that all of our Public Schools have opened today, and students can now begin settling-in and progressing with their studies.

During the first week back, Recovery Week, students are engaged in learning new routines and expectations, especially as it relates to school safety and health. Schools are balancing academics with a focus on student well-being.

I wish to thank all of our students for their patience, and a thank you to our parents for working with your respective school Principals and Administrators to implement the new safety and health procedures.

This pandemic has changed the way we go about our daily lives, and our school educators have had to make changes as a result.

We are grateful to Officers in the Department of Education under the leadership of the Commissioner of Education, and Officers in the Department of Health who have worked tirelessly during the past months to prepare for a safe return to school for our students. The success in keeping our public schools responsibly safe moving forward depends on the entire community of which I ask for your dedicated support.

Bermuda is one of the few countries that has been able to re-open school in person for all students. It is a testament to our collective work that this has been achieved.

Our essential and frontline officers were also on the ball last week and I am appreciative of them as well. Days after Hurricane Paulette, we held the Advanced Poll for Seniors, Travelers, and Incapacitated Voters.

Prior to the Poll there was some disquiet from certain corners about the Poll being safe for voters. The Parliamentary Registrar is not an office that normally finds themselves defending their performance in the media so I will. I have no doubt that either Public Officers from the Parliamentary Registrar, or Returning Officers made up from members of the public would be able to keep voters safe.

Last week’s Advanced Poll, the longest in Bermuda’s history, ran for four days and it is safe to say that anyone who wanted to vote and qualified for the Advanced Poll could have voted.

Again, I fully appreciate the Parliamentary Registrar and her team’s efforts, in difficult circumstances.

That confidence means there can be no reasonable fears about Public Safety and the General Election. Protocols and measures that have been put in place are effective against spreading the virus, and are also accommodating for voters.

If you are following the global response to the pandemic you may have noticed that many countries that thought they had managed COVID-19 are now experiencing increased cases; We have seen spikes in Spain and France, and now the UK where football grounds were due to be opened this upcoming weekend; and today the Government announced bans on groups larger than 15 people. We are seeing what is possibly a second wave.

We have largely avoided community transmission in Bermuda. That result was reached by using a combination of science, medical advice, adapting our behaviour, and relying on the common sense and the dependable care and concern of Bermudians to take care of themselves and others.

Given that Bermuda’s population travels quite a bit, and many jobs depends on welcoming people to our shores for work and/or leisure, our response had to be both stringent and dynamic. In preparation for the winter, and as more countries open, more residents will travel and return home; and more international travelers will arrive. As a result, we know that between now and the end of 2020 we need to be more vigilant and more aware.

As time goes on, many are likely to think the risk from the virus is very low given the number of negative test results we receive; but that is precisely when we have to be more watchful and guard against complacency.

Together we have done a great job of managing the pandemic on our shores, however we must look at the example in other places if we are not careful.

From all reports it appears that Hurricane Teddy did not have the impact on lives and homes that we feared was possible when it was an intense, monster storm churning in the Southern Atlantic Ocean late last week. I, and many, many others have said: “We Bermudians are no doubt blessed”.

While seemingly there has been significant damage to our foreshores and coasts, and while we trust nature will restore herself, we cannot ignore the fact that given Paulette had come seven days before, we faced this storm with readiness.

The last time we faced this sort of challenge was in 2014 with back-to-back hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo; we endured, overcame, and continued to thrive…it’s how we do, what we do.

Over the last week weeks I witnessed time and again the essence of what makes us Bermudian. We cared for each other and supported each other. I saw neighbors helping neighbors as each household prepared for the storms. We checked and made sure windows were bordered and there was storm necessities in place. We made phone calls, did grocery runs and put support in place. This is truly who we are and these characteristics are on display daily and more so, when we have to face adversity together.

Therefore I was dismayed to see the irresponsible behavior of a few parents who allowed their children to play in the ocean during the aftermath of the storm. We know the wave action created a significant amount of damage to our shoreline.

We must always be aware that before, during and after a storm, playing in the surf can be dangerous for adults and more so for children.

I will say it now for future storms and extreme wave action, when we advise people not to go into the water, please heed these warnings.

They are for your safety and well-being and those around you. I am grateful that the children were not injured or worse and we use this as a learning opportunity to take the warnings seriously.

Which brings me to the individuals and organizations tasked with guiding us safely through hurricanes, our essential workers and members of the Emergency Measures Organisation – the EMO. We hear about this organization usually before, during and after hurricanes.

Members of the EMO are tasked with working together, seamlessly providing and sharing information that will allow the Minister of National Security to make decisions that will keep us safe and secure.

I am truly humbled by the men and women who sacrifice their comfort and their family’s needs, and stand ready and be alert, to answer emergencies in difficult conditions.

Working throughout the night, with little sleep to ensure Bermuda stays safe and is continually updated with vital information.

I have met many of our frontline heroes I can say that each one of them sees their job as service and their duty as a calling.

So on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda I extend a sincere thank you and acknowledge Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming and our courageous and selfless Emergency Measures Organization workers. We truly appreciate you and your hard work.

Thank you.