June 4th COVID-19 Update
Good evening Bermuda. I am joined today by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education, who will each give a statement. The Minister of National Security is also on hand to answer any questions which may come from members of the media.
Before the Minister of Health, gives her update, I would like to detail the changes to the configurations of the Cabinet of Bermuda.
This morning, a new Minister of the government was sworn in, and welcome to Cabinet, the Honorable Jason Hayward, Minister of Labour.
Under his portfolio will be the departments of Labour, Workforce Development, Financial Assistance and aspects of the Department of Immigration. There were additional department and administrative changes that were made today. And in keeping with my promise with the statement that I made, which was sent out at Government House earlier today, I will detail those changes now. These changes will position the government to respond swiftly to the changing local and global environment.
First, under the Office of the Premier, the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission will be added from the Ministry of Finance. The Parliamentary Registrar, and the Policy and Strategy Section will move from the Office of the Premier to the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
The Deputy Premier will remain the Minister of Home Affairs, and added to his portfolio, are Land Valuation, and Land Title Registry, which have come from the Ministry of Public Works.
Moving to other ministries will be Municipalities, which will go to Public Works. Intellectual Property, which will go to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Charities and Parish Councils, which will go to the Minister for Community Affairs and Sports.
The Attorney-General will remain as Minister of Legal Affairs with Social Services being added to her portfolio.
Minister Dickinson will remain as the Minister of Finance, with the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission moving from that ministry to the Office of the Premier.
Colonel Burch, will remain Minister of Public Works, and as mentioned earlier, Municipalities will be added to his portfolio and Land Valuation and Land Title Registry, which was formerly in the Ministry of Public Works will move to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Minister Wilson will remain Minister of Health, and Financial Assistance will move to the Ministry of Labour, which will allow Health to continue to focus on the continued management of this pandemic.
Minister Caines will remain Minister of National Security. Most immigration functions will move to Labour, while the aspect of land licensing will move to the Minister for the Cabinet Office. Minister Caines will retain border control functions under Immigration to amalgamate them into customs to create a Border Force.
Minister Foggo will serve as Minister of Community Affairs and Sports. Added to her portfolio are Parish Councils and Charities, which were previously in Home Affairs.
Moving to other ministries will be Social Services to Legal Affairs, and Labour and Workforce Development to the new Labour Ministry.
Minister Furbert will continue to serve as Minister for the Cabinet Office. Added to this ministry are Land Licensing, Intellectual Property, Parliamentary Registrar, and the Policy and Strategy Section.
Minister Robain will continue as Minister of Education, and Minister DeSilva will continue as Minister of Tourism and Transport and there were no changes to those respective ministerial portfolios.
Jamahl Simmons will become Junior Minister with responsibility for communications.
In spite of the fact that Jamahl Simmons leaves the Cabinet today, he has accepted my invitation to remain as a Junior Minister to continue assisting me for the Office of the Premier in the valuable role of Communications.
Over the past few months, Minister Simmons has led a communications efforts related to the pandemic, which has rivaled larger countries’ attempts at communications with their populations. He and his team at Communications have done a stellar job over the past few months.
I sincerely thank Minister Simmons for making the sacrifice and continuing on as a Junior Minister, to ensure that the size of the Cabinet is not expanded in this era of tight budgets. His willingness to serve epitomizes the spirit that is required of all of us during this time. I appreciate his dedication to serve the people of Bermuda, and I thank him for his efforts and his continued efforts.
The reconfiguration of the Cabinet is essential as we transition from the management of a health crisis to the required focus on our economy.
With the creation of this new Ministry of Labour, I’ve determined to unite the areas of government that promote the training and employment of Bermudians, with a unit that can serve to protect their interests, when they seek employment for which they are qualified. We must put our people back to work now, and prepare those displaced by the pandemic to assume jobs that will be created as we recover.
The Constitution gives the Premier, and the Premier alone, the responsibility to decide the configuration of the Cabinet. After reflection I came to the conclusion that this was the best configuration for our island, at this time. It is my hope that all Bermudians would lend their support to our Cabinet, as we continue the important work of rebuilding our economy.
With that, I will now invite the Minister of Health to give an update on the latest test results.
MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT
Today there were 39 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda continues to have 141 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
- there are now 19 active cases, of which
- 12 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
- 7 persons are hospitalized; and
- none are in critical care.
- A total of 113 have now recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.
The average age of persons hospitalized is 79 and their age ranges from 66 to 91 years.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
In terms of the race breakdown: 57% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 2% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 41 are Imported
- 84 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 11 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- 5 are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is 0.39, putting us in a great place in the control of coronavirus.
As many people are aware, there is an airbridge arriving from Toronto tomorrow repatriating Bermudians and residents who need to return home. I want to remind the public that all arriving travelers HAVE to quarantine at home for 14 days, and during this period they cannot interact with others or receive any household visitors.
We have very clear guidance on the website coronavirus.gov.bm under “Guidance”, which includes what a quarantined person can and cannot do, and what other household members must do.
Please help protect our most vulnerable by responsibly keeping away from quarantined persons, for everyone’s safety. Connect with your loved ones by phone and the various video and social media alternatives until they complete their quarantine and have a negative test results after 14 days.
On the matter of protecting our most vulnerable, I want to pause once again and remind the public of the continued need to shield persons who are most at risk from COVID complications… complications that can lead to death.
Coronavirus can make anyone ill, but some persons are extremely vulnerable and are at a higher risk and need to take extra steps to avoid becoming ill – this is called shielding
Shielding is a measure to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus, by minimising all interaction between them and others, especially individuals not living in your household. However, households living with a person at higher risk from infection will have to take steps to support the individual.
Household members do not all need to start shielding themselves, but they should do what they can to support persons who must be shielding and to carefully follow guidance on avoiding high risk settings and practice physical distancing.
While at home persons who are shielding should:
- Minimise the time other people living with you spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated.
- Keep 6 ft (2 metres) away from people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible. If you can, use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. Use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying yourself after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes.
- If you share a toilet and bathroom with others, it’s important that they are cleaned every time after use (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with). Consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first.
- If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they’re present. If you can, take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing-up liquid and water and dry them thoroughly. If you are using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.
- Everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.
You and the rest of your family or household should try to follow this advice as far as you are able.
I encourage everyone to go to coronavirus.gov.bm and look at the extensive resource tools that have been created to guide us through these often confusing times.
And, finally, as always, Bermuda, please continue to practice physical distancing, minimise your social interactions and wear a mask. And, no, a face shield should not replace a mask. I have had that question asked a few times this week… A face shield will only reduce droplet-transmission but will not work if the virus is in the air. If you are going to be in close contact with people outside your household… wear a mask.
Masks are critical for reducing coronavirus transmission by as much as 80 per cent. They also act as a catch-all for the wearer who then protects others from any illness they may have.
The message of mask wearing and physical distancing is vitally important because these actions are key to our success. As a country we will not contain COVID-19 or progress to phase 4 without the public fully embracing these actions.
However, the reminder is especially important today, as we anticipate peaceful demonstrations this weekend. Wearing a mask and physical distancing are especially important in a crowded space.
Mass gatherings such as this can lead to a surge in cases of COVID-19 if the necessary precautions are not taken. They can become “super-spreader events”. So I implore all who intend to participate to wear your face masks and do your best to stay six feet apart, and no less than 3 feet.
This is an opportune moment to remind the public again of our new Reopening Scorecard, which will be updated today and can be viewed on the website.
You will see that “Preventive Behaviours” is the first category of indicators we are measuring… this is because they are the most important items that will enable us to move successfully through phases, and the whole of Bermuda is needed to participate in these. For this reason I encourage the public to sign up to HealthIQ and update their status regularly.
Your participation and reports on HealthIQ informs Bermuda’s performance. The better we do on face mask wearing, physical distancing and adoption of technology, the better we will fare. Since Monday we have gone from 5,000 participants to just over 6,000 today, so well done Bermuda! The target is 10,000 minimum, so I encourage everyone, of any age to participate. Your data is confidential and cannot be viewed by anyone at all.
A few people have asked if we could provide the COVID results by Parish. While this cannot be done because with such small number people could easily become identifiable, HealthIQ does provide a better alternative. The App reports aggregate data and provides a heat map of potential cases, showing which postal codes have more reports. For persons looking to see where there are more potential cases, HealthIQ provides this solution.
So visit healthiq.bm to download the App and help Bermuda get through our phased reopening.
Thank You, Bermuda, and stay safe.
Thank you Minister of Health.
The message of which you’ve shared with masks is something I think which is particularly important. I happen to believe that because of the high prevalence of mask wearing and the requirement for masks to be worn inside is possibly the reason why we’ve been able to see our transmission numbers be so low. I think it’s very important that that continues.
It’s very unfortunate that I see images being shared on social media of old advice. Whether it be prior to persons recognizing that wearing a mask can certainly help to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and I just want to remind persons that this is old advice. It is advice that we would have had in March, but given that there’s new information that has come to light, it is absolutely essential that when you are in interactions with persons, especially if you are indoors, you continue to wear a mask as it is vital to make sure that we can continue to progress as a country.
I now invite the Minister of Education to give an update on Bermuda schools, and what parents can expect in the coming weeks and months.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION STATEMENT
As previously shared, all schools (both public and private) were also scheduled to reopen during Phase 3. However, with Phase 3 starting so close to the end of the school year, I have decided that public schools will not reopen this academic year for our students.
I have further decided that the school term will end earlier for public school students to allow for additional school staff training, prior to school reopening in September 2020.
The last day of school for all public school students is Friday, June 19th 2020, instead of Monday, June 29th, 2020.
Students will continue with the remote learning programme which commenced on March 23rd, 2020. This programme includes online learning with school staff and/or the provision of learning packets to students. Continuing with the remote learning programme until June 19th will enable our students to maximize learning days during the month of June.
All Pre, Primary, Middle and Senior schools will hold their end of year school activities, and school leaving ceremonies during the month of June as we bring closure to the 2019/2020 school year for students. We all know that this time of year is usually a special time for our students who are transitioning from pre to primary, or to ‘big school’ we would say to our younger ones; a transitioning from primary to middle school; from middle to senior school; and from senior to college/university or to enter the world of work. During these transitions there are always celebratory activities to recognize what our children have achieved, and how they progressed during the year.
Despite the limitations that COVID 19 presents to us in that schools will not be having the usual graduation ceremonies, I am very pleased to share that our school leaders are being very creative in organizing graduation activities to recognize our graduating students at the different school levels. Information about the celebration activities will be communicated directly to our parents. All graduation activities will follow safety and health protocols as stipulated by the Department of Health and the Ministry of National Security.
The last day of the school term for school staff will remain Tuesday, June 30th 2020.
School staff will continue to provide online learning experiences and learning packets for students up to June 19th, the last day of school for students; and from June 22nd to June 30th, Principals and school staff will complete end of year duties. They will also participate in training workshops and carry out essential tasks in preparation for schools reopening in September for the 20/21 academic year.
Senior Schools/Summer School
Both senior schools will also continue the remote learning programmes until students have completed their courses, and course work for the academic year. Once students are dismissed for summer vacation, senior school staff will spend the remainder of the year grading student assignments, participating in ongoing professional development and preparing for schools to reopen in September 2020. Senior Schools will also host orientation sessions for incoming S1 students before the end of June.
The Department of Education is now finalizing plans for summer course offerings for our S1, S2, S3 and S4 students. These plans include confirming the total number of students and courses required to launch an online learning service so that students will be able to make up and earn credits toward their Bermuda School Diploma.
Also, both senior schools will be holding graduation activities in celebration of the achievements of their 2020 Year Graduates. Information about the celebration activities will be communicated directly to parents. All graduation activities will follow safety and health protocols as stipulated by the Department of Health and the Ministry of National Security.
Child Support Programmes
The Department of Education is currently operating an Educational Support Programme at the CedarBridge Academy for children of those parents who returned to work during phase 2. This programme will now be expanded for children of those parents who must return to work during Phase 3. The expanded programme at the CedarBridge Academy will start on Tuesday, June 16th (as June 15th is a public holiday), and end on Friday, June 19th, the last day of school for students. We urge that only those parents returning to work during Phase 3 who are interested and who have absolutely no home support at all for their children to attend the Education Support Programme, to contact their child’s school Principal no later than Tuesday, June 9th. This will provide in advance the number and year levels of students who will require education support, and will assist Officers who are running the operation of the Education Support Programme to plan effectively.
September 2020 – The New School Year
I want to briefly inform our stakeholders that during the past two months the Department of Education Officers have been engaged in intensive preparation developing safety and health protocols for schools. This has been in collaboration with the Department of Health. These protocols also had the input from school staff and union stakeholders. Once finalized, the Department will share the protocols particularly with our parents so they are aware of what safety and health measures will be implemented during the upcoming school year. The Commissioner of Education will be writing directly to parents regarding this.
Summer Day Camps
With schools closing on Friday, June 19th for our students, the Department of Education has been in discussions with the Department of Youth & Sport about the need to commence their annual summer day camp programme earlier this year. We are thankful to the team at the Department of Youth & Sport for their collaboration, and pleased to say that in support they will start the annual Summer Day Camps earlier on Wednesday, June 24th 2020.
At this point I want to shift to our private schools briefly. As Minister with responsibility for all Education in Bermuda, during the past month I have had a number of meetings with the Leaders of our private schools. However, as we enter towards Phase 3 opening each of the private schools will decide independently how they plan to move forward with their school operations. Nonetheless, the private schools are following the safety and health protocols as per the Ministry of Health; and, I am pleased to report that just as the Department of Health undertook a check of our public school entry and exit protocols over a week ago, the Officer is currently undertaking walkthroughs of each of the private schools to ensure that the safety and health protocols in their school buildings have been fully implemented and compliant with the Ministry of Health’s Safety and Health Protocols. I thank our private school leaders for the meetings and the discussions we have had about the impact of COVID19, sharing their experiences and a number of other school related matters.
In closing, I thank all of our Department of Education and school staff for their continued commitment to our students. I am grateful to our parents/guardians for their support in ensuring our students are engaged in their remote learning activities. I also want to acknowledge our Union stakeholders who through meetings, and subsequent to participating in school walkthroughs, have provided good input and recommendations for enhancing our Safety & Health Strategy for School Reopening. This collaborative approach has proven to be very meaningful and reassuring as we foster ahead for School Transformation.
COVID-19 has presented us with challenges that none of us would have imagined a year ago. Without the collective efforts of all that I have mentioned above as well as others that I have mentioned previously our children would not have fared as well as they have during this time. I would like to thank the Bermuda National Museum who have provided extensive support to our schools.
Also, I want to take this time to recognize PlanetMath and ConnecTech for their invaluable amount of donated hours of service to the BPSS students. They have readily volunteered without prompting, and provided our students with hundreds of hours of free access to mathematics and coding lessons between them. It is partnerships like these and the many others, COVID-19 has allowed to form that will no doubt help carry the reforming our public school system into the future.
As always, we continue to encourage our Educational Family to use the BPSS Family Feedback form to send in your questions, concerns, complaints and kudos about the work taking place in our schools and at the Department of Education.
Thank you, Minister of Education.
Against the backdrop of relatively low numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bermuda, we will continue to exercise, all of the appropriate public health measures needed to keep us healthy.
However, we must press forward with the safe reopening of our economy. The Cabinet Committee led by Minister David Burch met today, and will meet again tomorrow. That committee, however, has confirmed a recommended start to Phase 3 for next week Thursday, 11 June.
During Monday’s press conference, we will provide full details of what will be open during Phase 3. However, it is important to remember that our initial plan had Phase 3, including the reopening of churches, gyms, schools, the resumption of full public transportation, the opening of government offices and the ending of mandatory work from home.
However, it is important to note that if circumstances allow you to continue to work from home, this is still being encouraged. The final configurations for Phase 3 will be announced on Monday, but the government is on track to move to Phase 3 on Thursday, 11 June.
I am fully committed to reopening this economy, so that we can get our country on the road to economic health, and I look forward to pressing ahead to Phase 4 as quickly and as safely as possible. That means, we all have to keep wearing our masks.
The global demonstrations and demands for justice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic together with abject racism and inequality, are also being seen here in Bermuda.
The protests taking place outside the US Consul General’s Offices and those planned for the coming days are opportunities for people to stand together so their voices can be heard.
These peaceful demonstrations should not be frustrated by those necessary precautions that we have taken as part of our pandemic response. To ensure that the weekends planned march can be done safely and in accordance with the law, which currently bans outside gatherings of persons more than ten, I have invited the Governor to approve an amendment to the existing regulations to allow the Minister of National Security to set out the appropriate conditions under which a march can take place.
These amendments are now with the Governor for his review, and I will provide further details as part of a Ministerial Statement to the House of Assembly tomorrow.
Yesterday, the Attorney-General, the hon. Kathy Lynn Simmons launched the start of a public consultation on a draft regulated cannabis regime for Bermuda.
The draft bill envisions licenses for cultivation by commercial growers, cannabis retail shops, the manufacture, research, transportation, imports and exports of cannabis and cannabis products.
The regulatory requirements for each category of license is provided within the draft legislation, including specific regulations that will apply to cannabis retail shops. I encourage every person in Bermuda, who has an interest in providing feedback, whether positive or negative, to the policy document to visit forum.gov.bm and add your comments.
We want to hear from you and we want to know your thoughts on this draft policy. The consultation will end on 3 July.
Also, as a reminder, this Saturday evening on CITV and on Facebook, the Attorney-General will be hosting an online Town Hall, so she can discuss this and other matters, which are taking place inside of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. You should visit the Government of Bermuda’s social media platforms, to find out more information, and also to submit any questions which you may have.
I would like to thank the Attorney-General and her team in Chambers for their hard work, not just for this piece of draft legislation and the comprehensive policy that they have created, but for their hard work in the past few months, as they have drafted laws and regulations around COVID-19.
Tomorrow, we’ll see a busy session in the House of Assembly. Two bills will be considered that form part of improving the legislative tools available to the government to manage future events like this pandemic without resorting to a State of Emergency.
In addition to that, I will invite the House to approve the resolution that will reduce the salary of Ministers by 15%, and members and officers the legislature, by 12.5 percent for one calendar year.
Please tune in via parliament.bm, 105.1, or Bernews.com, to listen.
I continue to be cautiously optimistic about our progress. There is more and more economic activity happening in Bermuda, and with our move to Phase 3 scheduled for next week, we are one step closer to our new normal. Thank you.