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Country crosses 3,000 COVID deaths

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(Trinidad Guardian) Trinidad and Tobago has crossed 3,000 COVID-19 fatalities since the start of the pandemic with over 1,000 deaths reported in the last 45 days.

In the last 24 hours, the nation recorded 18 COVID-19 deaths pushing the pandemic death toll to 3,010. To date, COVID-19 has taken the life of one in every 470 people in Trinidad and Tobago, with one in every 32 cases succumbing to the disease.

As the nation clears its testing backlog from New Year’s Day to present, the Ministry of Health has been confirming record high caseloads. In the last seven days, the country has confirmed 4,171 new COVID-19 infections with 984 reported on Friday, the second-highest daily case count to date.

The country is nearing 100,000 total COVID-19 cases and to date, one in every 15 people in the country has had a confirmed positive COVID-19 PCR test result with over 96,000 total cases. As of Friday, one in 87 people was considered an active COVID-19 case with total active cases standing at 16,119.

Infections are still being driven by those under the age of 59—the young and middle-aged. However, the elderly, the unvaccinated, and those with comorbidities are those that are disproportionately affected.

Based on data from Dr Avery Hinds, Technical Director of the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division, adults aged below 59 make up 82.5 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of January 4, 2022. However, this expansive age group accounts for 34.8 per cent of total COVID-19 deaths in the country.

Doctors and health officials have repeatedly warned the elderly (those above age 60) and those with comorbidities are at the highest risk for negative outcomes. Nationally, T&T has a very high prevalence of non-communicable diseases, noting diabetes, hypertension, asthma, cancer, obesity, and heart disease.

Since May 1, 2021, of the 2,841 COVID-19 deaths tracked by Guardian Media, nearly 83.5 percent were people with at least one significantly underlying health condition or 2,371 people.

However, with the latest waves of the disease, there has been an increase in young adults and pediatric deaths. To date, the nation has lost 49 young adults and nine children with the youngest victim being a newborn girl in Trinidad and a 25-year-old woman with comorbidities in Tobago.

From July 22, 2021, to December 22, 2021, the Ministry of Health has been tracking the vaccination status of those admitted into the parallel healthcare system. During that period, 9,607 patients were not fully vaccinated, accounting for 86 percent of patients that have passed through the health care system.

Going a step further, 94.5 percent of people who would have succumbed to COVID-19 were also not fully vaccinated as of January 7, 2022. This breaks down to 390 people who died before the first group of vaccinated individuals became fully vaccinated, 2,455 not fully vaccinated people, and 165 fully vaccinated deaths. Those who have been inoculated and still succumb to COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health, have also had severe comorbidities that reduced chances of a positive outcome.

Trinidad and Tobago’s deaths are amongst the highest in the world. Data from the World Health Organization continues to show since November, T&T has been amongst the countries recording over 6 deaths per 100,000 people weekly. Between December 15 through December 28, 2021, John Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 data shows this country consistently being in the top spot globally in daily confirmed deaths per million people based on the seven-day rolling average.

COVID-19 deaths

–A case of classification?

For all of 2020 and 2021, health officials like Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and Dr Avery Hinds explained COVID-19 deaths in the country were generally classified into two broad categories. On December 29, Dr Parasram said, “Anyone that has passed away and has a COVID-positive test at the time of death will be classed as COVID-positive, dying with COVID.” The CMO explained then that COVID-19 deaths consisted of “both persons dying of complications of COVID-19, and those having a positive PCR test at the time of death.

Internationally, those dying from COVID-19 and its complications are classified as a COVID-19 death while those who died from an unrelated cause but tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of death were classed as a COVID-19 coincidental death and are tallied separately. Based on the Ministry of Health officials’ statements, these classifications were lumped together.

However, on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health clarified further. Responding during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference, Dr Hinds explained, “The deaths that are being counted as COVID-19 deaths are deaths that have either COVID-19 as the direct cause, meaning the individuals went in and had a COVID-19 diagnosis on admission, succumbed to their COVID-19 infection and were counted as COVID-19 deaths, or individuals who sometimes are found, for example, those who would have died at home, we know that they had COVID.”

Hinds also explained that deaths have been classified by clinicians looking at individual cases.

“It is also necessary to explain there are categories that are put on to the death certificate, the direct cause, the pre-morbid conditions, other significant conditions. Any of these that include COVID-19 would then classify the death for all purposes as a COVID-19 death because there is either a direct link or a contributory link to the COVID infection.”

Dr Hinds also assured that the Ministry of Health has not counted random individuals who died of something else while having COVID-19—a notable change on the public record concerning the COVID-19 death classification.

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