T&T crosses 1,600 COVID deaths

T&T has lost 1,600 people to COVID-19 since the pandemic in March 2020.

Since the start of 2021, the country has recorded 1,473 COVID-19 deaths, four times as high as the nation’s murder toll.

In its daily update yesterday, the Ministry of Health said a middle-aged woman without any underlying health conditions was among seven people who lost their battle with COVID-19 between Saturday night and yesterday.
The ministry said the other fatalities were four elderly men, a middle-aged man, and another middle-aged woman.

This deadly disease has now taken the lives of one in every 900 people in T&T. As the country enters a new phase of the pandemic with the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant of concern, cases remain high, crossing 54,000 laboratory-confirmed instances of the disease. To date, one in every 26 people in the country has been confirmed to have had COVID.

As the pandemic rages on, no one has been spared from infection. Months-old infants to near-centenarians continue to contract COVID-19.

However, when it came to succumbing to the disease, the elderly and those with comorbidities have been disproportionately affected.

With just 16.7 per cent of total COVID-19 cases, the elderly (those above age 60) have accounted for 65.5 per cent of T&T’s COVID-19 deaths to date.

Adults aged 25 to 49 accounted for the lion’s share of COVID cases in the country based on data presented on last Friday with 51 per cent of the nation’s 54,114 cases.

While there have been smaller outbreaks in elder-care homes earlier this year, health officials have routinely noted that those in the age 25-49 bracket have become infected and take the virus home to those who are at the highest risk.

Recent deaths trend younger

The latest data for October 2021 has had a concerning trend. Since October 1, the country has lost 118 people to COVID-19, but the proportion of elderly to non-elderly people has noticeably changed.

Instead of the near-two-third proportion of elderly deaths to non-elderly deaths the country has observed pandemic to date, that gap has closed, and at times, it has been nearly evenly split.

Month-to-date, the country has lost 65 older adults versus 52 middle-aged, young adults, including a teenager, while one person’s age and co-morbid status was undisclosed. In fact, on October 7, 2021, T&T recorded its youngest victim to COVID-19, a teenage female with comorbidities aged between 10 and 14.

No further details have been provided by the Ministry of Health, upholding their policy on patient confidentiality.

The role of comorbidities

The country has recorded several people without comorbidities to succumb to the deadly virus in the past few months.

Still, deaths of those with underlying health conditions vastly outnumber those who were deemed healthy.

Since May 1, of the 1,434 deaths tracked by Guardian Media, 86 per cent, or 1,236 people, had at least one comorbidity.

Since the start of the pandemic, doctors and health officials have warned the elderly (those above age 60) and people with hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease are at high risk.

In the last week, Dr Abdul Hamid, the General Manager of Primary Care Services at the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), repeated to the country that T&T has a very, very high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s), noting diabetes, hypertension, asthma, cancer, obesity, and heart disease.

Nationally, he said there had been a sustained increase in rates of obesity, which puts people at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 related illness and deaths, particularly if another chronic non-communicable disease is present.

Similarly, Dr. Hamid also cited a higher risk of infection and death if you have high blood pressure or hypertension. At the same time, he said those with diabetes pose a “unique challenge” as they may be more at risk of severe illness, particularly those with type-2 diabetes, putting them at risk for severe complications.

Expanding further, Hamid explained that those who have heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure could result in more severe COVID-19 illness.

COVID-19 has been noted to directly damage the heart, especially in cases where high blood pressure has already strained the organ.

For those that suffer from moderate to severe or uncontrolled asthma, Hamid also stated they are more likely to be hospitalised from COVID-19, particularly if they suffer from COPD or non-allergic asthma.

Lastly, those with cancer are also at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness, with data showing a higher incidence of COVID-19 in cancer patients than in the general population. Hamid advised notwithstanding possible decreased immunogenicity, all individuals with active or prior cancer who are eligible for vaccination should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The pandemic is still far from finished. 50.8 per cent of the total population has received a COVID-19 vaccine which drastically reduces the chances for severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalisation, and death. However, 49.2 per cent of the country remains unvaccinated. With the high prevalence of NCDs across T&T and the expected sustained spread of the Delta variant, unless the vaccination rate increases, the country may continue to lose between six and eight people per day as we have in the last several months.

However, there are tried, tested, and proven ways to avoid becoming a part of the harrowing statistics; wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and get vaccinated.

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