By Latrishka Thomas
The owner of the Hodges Bay Resort and Spa has confirmed that four of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday and are now being quarantined in a separate area within the resort.
Owner, Jeff Wellemeyer, explained that recently, 20 people who arrived on island on a flight from Miami tested positive for the virus, and of those 20, five were guests at the resort, all of whom have already returned to the U.S.A.
Being cognisant of that, “we are not going to wait around for the government…. we are going to test all of our employees and we are going to do it every week and we are going to keep doing every week until this thing is gone or there’s a vaccine,” was the stance asserted by the resort’s management.
He also shared with Observer that of the four male employees “none of them are showing any major symptoms.”
However, one had a high temperature while another experienced minor body aches some time ago.
The resort head explained that their mandate since the inception of Covid-19 is to protect their employees and their families because “we are not willing to let it spread throughout the whole community.”
“The guests are one thing, but the employees are another thing; they are the ones we have to protect because they are the ones that are going to carry it [out] to the island,” he remarked.
The fundamental way that they sought to do that was through testing. They therefore solicited the help of Dr Joseph John who said that he conducted scores of rapid antigen tests at the hotel yesterday.
The hotel which has been partially open during the lockdown, created a biosafety zone months ago, where all employees had to stay on the compound.
About 25 employees have been staying on the compound.
According to Wellemeyer, “if something like this happens, we have the ability to put them in a completely separate area from everybody else, in separate buildings unlike most other resorts.”
In addition, the management of the hotel has put measures in place to track employees’ health.
“Before we found out they were positive, we had a system in place where every morning they go to an app on the phone and they report each symptom they may have…and when they do, it then lets us know that something might be wrong,” the luxury resort owner disclosed.
Consequently, the resort was able to isolate the four men the second that they reported symptoms until they were tested yesterday.
Furthermore, “we have a list of pre-existing conditions for every employee we have. I went through the list… and the ones that have multiple conditions, I told them that they had to take some time off. Hate to do it,” Wellemeyer said with regret.
Dr John, of private practice Medical Surgical Associates, was the one to confirm the news of the positive results – which now bring the total number of recorded cases to 69.
He commended the resort for its proactive approach in requesting tests for its entire workforce.
“They were really on top of this, and other hotels need to do the same. It’s the only way to keep staff and guests safe,” he told Observer.
“I hope this changes attitudes in the country and leads to more widespread rapid testing. I fully accept we must move forward with our tourism industry and we can’t stay closed, but by the same token, we must do so in a way that keeps everyone safe.”
According to the doctor, the Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez was at the resort while the tests were being carried out, and a report containing his [Dr John’s] findings, had been sent to the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas. Repeated attempts to reach Ministry of Health officials for comment were unsuccessful up to press time.