Cayman’s isolation woes: In their own words

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

The Cayman Compass invited readers to share their testing and isolation stories with us.

Some had tested positive for Omicron, or were suspected of having the strain, so under current regulations, they and their households could face isolation for up to 14 days. Others, who didn’t have the strain, were released after a shorter period – and their household members did not need to quarantine at all.

A lack of communication with government agencies, including Public Health and Travel Cayman, was also a common complaint, while some readers reported that the communication they did have often contained erroneous information, such as telling people they were free to leave isolation, even though they had not tested negative.

Many of people who contacted the Compass asked not to be named.

Here, in their own words, are some of their stories.

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Utter confusion

They are told that it was certainly an error, to get retested as they had mixed up the samples.

My son and his girlfriend were put in quarantine with electronic bracelets on 11 Dec. following a day 2 travel COVID test for one of them.

On 13 Dec., Public Health called them saying it was a mistake and that they were coming to cut the bracelets off and let them go. Five hours later, they called back saying it was an error and that not only they were staying in quarantine, but they would be there for 14 days.

A few days after, they were told it was 10 days, then they were told that the young lady was suspected of Omicron, which was never confirmed, and would be in for 14 days but it could be only 10 days.

We remained uncertain until 23 Dec. of the number of quarantine days and if they would be out before or after Christmas. They were promised calls from a supervisor many times which never came, and the people on the line could not say anything for certain.

Finally, they got confirmed for testing on 26 Dec. They went to the West Bay centre as requested. Then, to their surprise, they also get tested at home on the same day. On 27 Dec., my son’s two tests results were still negative but his girlfriend received one positive test out of two. They were told that it was certainly an error, to get retested as they had mixed up the samples.

Although they were promised results in one hour, the next team did not know anything about the fast track and the new confirmation of the results came only on 28 Dec. They had to wait another 24 hours to get a release call. They were even told on 29 Dec. that it may take up to 72 hours to get the release.

Our young adults have been very patient, respecting all the rules, but the misinformation and all the mistakes and errors that were not corrected just came to a point that was no longer acceptable.

We totally appreciate how busy Travel Cayman and Public Health were over the holidays, but it is also extremely taxing on students, returning home for a break, after a difficult time studying overseas in the time of COVID.

Please note that both tested negative on day 9, on rapid antigen tests.

Further troubling thoughts – a family of friends’ has one positive traveller in the family of four, during the same period, and the three negative family members were allowed to leave the house, work and go shopping and none of them were restricted with electronic bracelets!

Longer isolation for ‘less potent strain’

I don’t understand why our government has increased the isolation period when other governments are decreasing it in light of Omicron being less potent.

I just got my test results back stating ‘probable Omicron’ and therefore have been told: “Persons who are suspected to have the Omicron variant, and their primary contacts, will be isolated or quarantined for fourteen days (14) under a Public Health order.”

Can someone please ask why such an onerous mandate is required when Omicron is less dangerous than other variants?

It is wholly unfair that my husband and three children, all of whom are negative, are also expected to be placed into mandatory isolation. The damage to children from missing social interaction and schooling is far greater than the threat the virus poses to them.

I also missed an urgent diagnostic mammogram yesterday due to testing positive, when the threat of cancer poses a far greater risk to my own health than COVID, thus a prolonged period of isolation presents a real danger to my own health.

I don’t understand why our government has increased the isolation period when other governments are decreasing it in light of Omicron being less potent. Is there grounds to appeal this, as it seems like a gross breach of my husband and children’s civil liberties?  One of my children has learning difficulties, so missing school is highly damaging.

I’m really concerned that positive results won’t be reported when the penalties are so onerous. I’ve already had friends question my choice in reporting the positive LFT and if I’d known the full cost to my family from being a good and responsible citizen, I may have reconsidered.  The 14 days for primary contacts needs to end.

Released by mistake

They even let us out by mistake for New Year’s Eve, then told us we had to go back into quarantine until our original exit date. So we had been in the community on the busiest night of the year.

I was stuck in quarantine with my two sons, age 22 and 16, after the 22-year-old tested positive on day 2 lateral flow. He tested negative after 5 days on lateral flow and I tested negative every day.

Funny how they let tourists out, but not Caymanians.

They even let us out by mistake for New Year’s Eve, then told us we had to go back into quarantine until our original exit date. So we had been in the community on the busiest night of the year.

I also emailed many people, as I needed to catch a flight that took me eventually to Australia, as my father has had a stroke. Not one response from anyone. Then my 23-year-son, who wasn’t in quarantine, had an accident and a head trauma and they wouldn’t let me out to be by his beside in hospital, even though I am negative.

After being on this island for 30 years, this has been such a traumatic experience for us mentally and physically with everything that happened, as I have just been released day 18 (when it’s day 5 in other countries).

I am now trying to book flights to get to my father and will not be returning until they actually start being realistic with their rules. None of them make any sense and it’s absolutely disgusting that the rules change for different people. I will be posting everywhere for tourists not to come to the Cayman Islands while they insist on these draconian rules.

To this day, they couldn’t confirm which variant [my son] had. Sounds to me they lost his results.

30 days in isolation

Considering the COVID protocols across the world are nowhere this insane, it made it really difficult to accept the quarantine rules here.

My son, who is 2, tested positive on 21 Nov. on an LFT. My husband and I both tested negative.

They told us we did not need to do a confirmatory PCR, and the LFT result was adequate to lock us up. This effectively locked us all into the house as I am half vaccinated (one dose) and my husband is unvaccinated.

My unvaccinated son had minimal symptoms – a low grade fever for one day and a cough that lasted 4-5 days that did not affect his breathing or daily functions

On 26 Nov., my husband tested positive via LFT at home. I was still negative. My unvaccinated husband’s symptoms were fatigue that lasted 2-3 days; chills and sweats, lasting 1-2 days; a mild cough that persisted for around a week; phlegm and mucus in the chest, nose and throat; body aches and muscle pains for 1-2 days.

At that point, as our household is considered unvaccinated, our 15-day isolation reset to 0.

I then tested positive on 3 Dec. via LFT at home.

As our household is considered unvaccinated, our 15-day isolation rest to 0.

I have taken one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which I had quite a few reactions to – loss of muscle control and movement in my arm and neck, migraine, nausea, tingling fingers.

[After I tested positive for COVID], I experienced the worst of our family, in regards to symptoms. I was bedridden for 2.5 days with migraine and light sensitivity; chills and sweats; extreme fatigue; low grade fever; body aches and muscle pains; phlegm in the chest, nose and throat; an extremely painful deep, chesty cough. The cough, and mucus/phlegm buildup were the longest lasting symptoms, taking around two full weeks to disappear.

Despite being ‘vaccinated’, I was the most sick out of our household.

I am unable to work from home, and was thankful to be able to receive the government stipend. I do however note that the stipend wasn’t even half of my salary, and due to inadequate funds in our account, we are delinquent on my son’s preschool fees for this month. We barely could cover our rent and basic bills/groceries and will have difficulty in the next few months on a fixed income getting back on track.

My son was tested via PCR 15 days after his positive test, and was deemed negative.

My husband was tested via PCR 15 days after his positive test, and was found positive (just barely out of range for releasable numbers), and did not have adequate numbers to be released. He took an additional PCR five days later, which again was just out of range for release, and was told to return in five days.

I had my exit PCR 15 days after my positive result, and was deemed negative. My husband tested again on this date with me, and, at this point, was still positive, but within the releasable numbers. We had to wait an additional two days after applying for a quarantine release letter.

My husband received his official quarantine release on 23 Dec. I know it isn’t the ‘end of the world’ but thanks to these insane COVID protocols, we missed 98% of the holiday season. No visiting Santa, holiday shopping, or anything. Once again, not the end of the world, but considering the COVID protocols across the world are nowhere this insane, it made it really difficult to accept the quarantine rules here…

The Flu Hotline always answered our calls, but my biggest issue with them was consistency. Every person we spoke to had differing opinions on the regulations, procedures and rules.

Public Health not once contacted us to check on us, and when we would speak to them, the most common phrase we received was “We are extremely overwhelmed here.” We were truly curious about what strain of the virus we had contracted (we wanted to know if it was Delta) but we were also never given any info on this, despite repeated requests to find out.

Placed on tracking monitor after LFT test

The next day, and frankly as we predicted, the PCR was negative – highly rare but caused by serious overcrowding at the Kimpton.

Having finally been reunited with our daughter, it seems churlish to be negative, but I must share our awful experiences with you on which I have written to Public Health and [Health Minister] Sabrina Turner.

Overall, my wife and I had to take 14 tests over a period of 24 days, both in the UK and mostly in Cayman.

One test undertaken in awful conditions at the Kimpton proved positive for myself. I received a professional call from Public Health asking me to isolate and they arranged a PCR the next day.

The problems started with calls and visits from Travel Cayman later that evening, telling all of us that we would be immediately tagged (despite wife and daughter testing negative). On the basis of just a LFT, I found this ridiculous and highly stressful for an elderly couple.

The next day, and frankly as we predicted, the PCR was negative – highly rare but caused by serious overcrowding at the Kimpton. We then spent constant time on the phone but finally next day were able to remove tags and enjoy the end of our vacation.

Tagging for a LFT seems wrong and indeed the whole enforced process can’t continue. Like all countries, you must now rely on people to be responsible.

Plus please:
– Quarantine if positive should be 7 days max
– Remove day 10 LFT test
– Give out LFT tests so that they can be self administered. Numbers will not allow you to enforce – the system just can’t cope and is far far to aggressive.

We love the Caymans, we have friends and relatives there, and despite the stress which we still consider inappropriate, we have already booked to return in April.

– Peter Collins 

‘The year mommy ruined Christmas’

Not planning to spend Christmas here, there was no gifts for him and very little food in the house.

After spending weeks planning a vacation to see my family whom I have not seen for two years, the time had finally come. My partner left the week before Christmas and my 4-year-old and I were scheduled to leave the following week. The morning of my travel test, I decided to do a home lateral flow test and… it was positive.

In my state of shock, disbelief and horror, I booked a PCR test that day.

I was devastated, my baby was really looking forward to this travel. He had been talking about it for many weeks. Not only that, but we would be spending the holidays alone as our other family members were already away.

We had just on 5 Nov. been released from quarantine when I had tested positive. I am also vaccinated. However, not planning to spend Christmas here, there was no gifts for him and very little food in the house. So I had to go into survival mode and pulled myself out of depression to still make Christmas great for my baby.

My coworkers and friends were absolutely amazing. They showed up with food and gifts for my little one.

While it was very difficult for us and we are still quarantined, we continue to be thankful.  Kids are amazing. He handled the situation like a star and I am trying to find ways to make it up to him as he deserves a great reward. 2021 – the year mommy ruined Christmas.

Wrong instructions

It has not been made clear to me… why the regulations are different for me just because I am suspected to have Omicron.

I know the people at HSA are swamped. They have responded to my emails promptly, but everyone I speak with (who is positive with Omicron or suspected to be) seems to have received different instructions.

I myself received the wrong instructions first and only got the right ones several days later when I queried them to be sure of the details. I will be understandably upset if some suspected Omicron cases are out after 10 days and I have to isolate for 14.

I think the people at HSA are working flat out and likely don’t have time to take the care they might like to take, and the result is more stress and confusion than is necessary in an already frustrating situation.

I am quite sure it is stopping some people from reporting their positive LFTs at all, which means our case rate data will be incredibly inaccurate. Also, it has not been made clear to me, either in my letter, my test results or in the material on the government website, why the regulations are different for me just because I am suspected to have Omicron. This is not true in other countries.

I am a rule follower by nature but a clear explanation of the need to isolate my family, when other families can come and go with LFTs, would have been nice. I have not received a phone call from a nurse or been able to get through on the phone, or I would have asked.

Why not release with negative LFT tests?

To put such harsh conditions on a milder variant is nuts.

Omicron is going to rip through this country. How is a two-week isolation of families for a virus that people are overcoming in 5-6 days going to help the country financially? At the very least, don’t differentiate between Omicron and Delta in terms of allowing families to LFT every day if one member is positive. To put such harsh conditions on a milder variant is nuts.

LFT testing vs PCR: I know at least four cases of people getting the virus abroad and the day they test negative on an LFT, they fly home, and continue to test negative on day 2, 5 and 10. Whereas, if you have the misfortune of testing positive on home soil for “probable omicron”, you and your family are locked up for 14 days and have to exit test on a PCR.

Why not let people certify LFT out of their isolation? Everyone I know who tested positive on LFT are no longer positive by day 6, 7 max. And then they fly home and are able (rightfully) to roam freely as long as they continue to test negatively on LFT. Why are we locking up families who have a positive result in Cayman for 14 days with no option to exit test before?

Why are we discriminating between Omicron (a less severe strain) and other variants?

How do you feel after reading this?

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