CESTOS, River Cess – After going without a confirmed COVID-19 case for months, River Cess has registered its first case. A now-deceased 21-year-old woman tested positive of the Coronavirus.
County Health Officer Joseph Topor told The Bush Chicken in a telephone interview that the specimen that tested positive was collected from her corpse.
Topor said the woman was admitted at the F. J. Grant Hospital in Greenville following a miscarriage and she was discharged a few days before she decided to move to Cestos, where her mother resides.
According to Topor, the patient had boarded a taxi from Greenville but the vehicle broke down while traveling to River Cess, requiring a motorcycle to transport her “straight into the emergency room” of the St. Francis Hospital.
“When she arrived at the E.R., she was in this respiratory distress – finding it difficult to breathe – but the nurses were smart to detect the signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus,” Topor said. “We then isolated her and began treating her.”
The top health official in the county said the woman died on the fifth day of her treatment before her specimen was collected and sent to the reference lab in Margibi for testing.
“It is regrettable to announce that River Cess has recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 case,” Topor said. “I’m saying regrettable because we have been doing everything to maintain our status.”
Topor added that there are currently six contacts and the contact tracers are working to ensure that all contacts of varying levels of risks are isolated and quarantined.
Among the high-risk contacts is the patient’s mother, who Topor said is already cooperating with the health team. The commercial motorcyclist who transported the woman to the hospital is also a high-risk contact, he added.
“Everyone that this lady had come in contact with before her death will be isolated and their specimen will be collected and tested,” Topor said. “This means we will not leave any contact untouched.”
The River Cess County Health Team is making efforts in the fight against COVID-19, but there are still challenges. While Topor is confident about the number of health workers the county has – at more than 500 trained health workers – he is concerned about logistical challenges.
Ambulances are not in good conditions to move patients to treatment centers or isolation units. At the same time, the precautionary observation center is still under renovation. More personal protective equipment is needed for nurses to be ready for any potential outbreak of COVID-19 in the county.
In the recent past, both Topor and the county information officer for River Cess, Isaac Williams, gave The Bush Chicken conflicting information in separate phone interviews about the status of the two ambulances in the county. Williams said the two ambulances are not functional but Topor, the county health officer, had maintained that one of the ambulances is functional while one is being repaired.
“The one ambulance is not actually functional, because I am a member of the hospital’s board,” Williams said. “Three months ago when we had the hospital board meeting, that was highlighted strongly.”
Williams also noted that a building had been identified by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be used as a precautionary observation center.
Health authorities say when the structure’s renovation is complete, it will be used for both isolation and treatment. However, neither Williams nor the county health officer could give a definitive date when the facility would be ready for use.
A tour of the facility showed that there was no electricity or running water.
Meanwhile, now that the county has recorded its first case and joined 13 other counties, Topor is calling on River Cess residents to observe all health protocols.
Adherence to preventive measures has been largely relaxed in River Cess. Not many people wear face masks in public and night clubs often remain open until 2 a.m. in both Cestos and Yarpah Town.
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue