EXCLUSIVE: Family Shuns Panic As COVID Hits Relative And Call Centre


The relatives of a 21-year-old woman from Ewarton in St. Catherine who tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have recounted their journey to confirmation of the highly contagious virus, adding that they tried frantically to prevent it from spreading.

The COVID-19 patient, who we will call Shirley (not her real name), was removed from her home by Ministry of Health personnel on Friday evening, April 10.

She is now in isolation at Spanish Town Hospital.

She did not have any previous ailment, and her COVID-19 symptoms are considered mild – not severe, the family told The Beacon.

In an exclusive interview, the family’s spokesman disclosed that relatives were always on high alert because Shirley works at a call centre, which is located in Portmore, St. Catherine.

She travelled daily via public transportation from her Ewarton hometown to Linstead, and then via staff bus from Linstead to Portmore, where several people work in a relatively small space.

The family said Shirley perhaps contracted the virus from a female co-worker who displayed flu-like symptoms, and who is said to be linked to people in Clarendon who tested positive for COVID-19.

Shirley encouraged her co-worker to get tested for the virus, but she refused.

On one occasion, the two were having a conversation at the workplace and the co-worker reportedly sneezed.

“She covered her mouth when she sneezed, but [Shirley] felt some of the droplets on her hand. Right there and then, [Shirley] washed off her hand and tried to sanitize and take the necessary precaution,” the family spokesman said.

He stated that Shirley started to have a headache two Saturdays ago, and so the family immediately quarantined her in a room. “She stayed there over the weekend,” the family spokesman declared.

On Monday, April 6, Shirley’s common-law-husband took her via private vehicle to a doctor’s office in Linstead.

“She went to the doctor and the doctor sent her home, saying he is more concerned about dengue fever; he doesn’t think it is COVID-19,” the family spokesman told The Beacon.

The family, however, remained skeptical.

On the following day, the common-law-husband took Shirley to a different place – Linstead Health Centre, where she underwent a COVID-19 test.

The test result, which was released on Friday morning (April 10), shows that Shirley has the virus.

Personnel from the Ministry of Health contacted the family via telephone on Friday afternoon and gave certain instructions.

They picked up Shirley Friday evening.

The family spokesman said there is no truth to claims that his family home was cordoned off by police, and that the house was scoured by health personnel.

“All of that is nonsense; not even one police went to the house. The nurses came over there and tested [Shirley’s] temperature and talked to her before they took her away,” he told The Beacon.

After Shirley received the test result, the doctor who initially examined her, as well as three members of her household, underwent COVID-19 tests. They are still awaiting the results.

The relatives who have been tested include Shirley’s son who is nearly two years old, her mother-in-law, and her companion who is employed to the largest company in the Ewarton area. The companion is now on leave. No one else from the household is showing any COVID-19 symptom, the family spokesman said.

He, in the meantime, expressed concern about the continued operation of call centres at this time, adding that there is a real risk of one of them becoming an epicentre of the virus on the island.

The family spokesman said, based on information he has received, some of Shirley’s co-workers underwent COVID-19 tests since Shirley’s case was confirmed.

In the meantime, the company where Shirley works – Alorica, dispatched a letter to its workers on Friday, notifying them about the COVID-19 confirmation.

It announced the immediate closure of its Portmore site, adding that the location would ‘go through a deep cleaning and sanitation process’.

Alorica further advised that workers will be notified about the resumption of work after the Ministry of Health carries out an inspection and gives the necessary clearance.

The company, in its letter, also said: “Any employee who was in direct contact with the individual (Shirley) is being informed. We will stay in close contact with the impacted individuals to ensure their well-being and confirm their health status.” Shirley has not attended work since her headache started two Saturdays ago.

Jamaica so far has recorded 69 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including four deaths.

By Horace Mills, Journalist (B.A. degree in Media and Communications; CARIMAC, University of the West Indies)


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