Although generally pleased with how the parish has tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in St James are hoping they will be able to stay on top of the outbreak even as new variants emerge.
With 1,427 cases up to Saturday, St James has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in western Jamaica, and the third highest for the country as of Saturday. It follows Kingston and St Andrew’s 4,051 cases and St Catherine’s 2,800 as the island records 13,548 cases.
Under the Western Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA) umbrella, St James has the highest number of cases ahead of Westmoreland’s 737, Trelawny’s 383, and Hanover’s 321.
Errol Greene, the regional director for the WRHA, said that the ongoing public education and mitigation efforts of St James’ local health authorities have helped to keep the virus’ spread in check.
“We have done quite a lot of work in St James, and we have an excellent team in St James. While the numbers might seem alarming, we have put things in place like the community outreach, public education and so on, to ensure that we manage the pandemic the best way we can,” Greene told The Gleaner. “I know that the numbers in St James were going north at one time, but the recovery rate has been commendable.”
Dr Delroy Fray, clinical coordinator at the Montego Bay-based Cornwall Regional Hospital, said that it would be best to keep an eye on new developments regarding the virus, particularly the new strain that was recently discovered in the United Kingdom.
“With the new strain of COVID-19, that is what we are worried about, and we do not know how it will behave, but time will tell. We have to watch and see. I am hoping it will not stress us, based on how the cases were trending down, as although the cases were there, the patients were getting better,” said Fray.
“The ones who died during the latter part of last year were people who had underlying illnesses that were bad. But if you look at the death rate among people within the country while having COVID, over the latter part of last year, it was getting less even though the [infection] numbers were rising.”
Businessman Mark Kerr-Jarrett urged continued vigilance against the pandemic even as he voiced confidence in the parish’s ability to weather the challenges.
“I think that Jamaica and St James have performed admirably under the constraints, and that the conditions and impact of COVID-19 could have been a lot worse, but I just think that we cannot let down our guard,” said Kerr-Jarrett. “We have to maintain vigilance and continue wearing our masks, doing the social distancing, and we just need to continue to be responsible and considerate of others in our behaviour, to minimise exposure.”