Wednesday’s reported seven day rolling average for COVID cases, as per numbers recorded by Cayman’s Department of Public Health was 41, the lowest 7-day rolling average in recent months and three cases lower than the rolling average reported for the first two days of the month. While this has been an ongoing trend in recent weeks, it begs the question- is this a function of actual declining cases or a reduction in testing due to the elimination of COVID-testing requirements for travelers?
The response to that question is not cut and dry. Statistics since May have shown a progressive decrease in the seven day rolling average case count. The seven-day rolling average was 44 for August 1 and 2, 43 for July 28 and 42 for July 27. This is in sharp contrast to weeks prior; for example, on July 19, the seven day rolling average was 56, on July 13 it was 65, on June 28 it was 58, on June 1 it was 72, on May 30 it was 77, on May 26 it was 98, on May 24 it was 116 and on May 20 it was 121. This dates back to pre-elimination of testing requirements for travelers to the Cayman Islands, which went into effect on June 30.
Between July 24-30, local data shows a continuing decline in COVID-cases detected. The number of cases detected fell from 323 to 310 cases, with the case rate declining by 4 per cent to 447 cases per 100,000 population from 466 cases per 100,000 population.
Globally, the reported number of cases also decreased during the last week by 9 per cent compared to the week prior.
In its weekly report, the World Health Organization pointed out that the current global trends in reported cases should be interpreted with caution as several countries have been progressively changing COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and, consequently, lower numbers of cases detected.
Cayman’s Department of Public Health has responded to the trend, stating:
Whilst the number of detected cases has decreased, a reduction in transmission is not necessarily reflected by other data indicators. Preventative measures including good hand hygiene, home isolation for those positive, wearing of masks in public and uptake of the vaccine continue to be advised to reduce the risk of infection.
Indeed, the reduction in COVID numbers could very well be a function of reduced testing. The number of PCR tests conducted between July 24 and 30 decreased by 16 per cent from 724 to 610 tests, while the test positivity increased by 11 per cent to be 50 per cent for the most recent weekly assessment. The graph below shows that the positivity rate has not been decreasing.
Source: Department of Public Health
Statistics with respect to hospitalizations also shed some light on whether the trend in recorded cases is actually reflective of an actual decline. The hospitalization numbers, while consistently quite low, are not declining.
Department of Public Health
Eight new hospital admissions were registered between July 24 and 30, one less than the previous week. Of the eight new admissions, 3 were admitted due to COVID-19 morbidity and 5 were detected on screening. A total of 11 patients required inpatient treatment, a decrease from 15 patients in the previous week.
This week, the CDC said it was tracking a new “variant of concern” dubbed BA.4.6. So far, there is little data on whether BA.4.6 is more transmissible than previous Omicron subvariants, but what is certain is that with the absence of a testing requirement it is not whether but when it will arrive in Cayman.