Mayari Sees Big Jump in Covid-19 Cases

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

A US dollar store in Mayari, Holguin.

HAVANA TIMES – The COVID-19 pandemic is out of control in Cuba, with between 600-1000 new cases every day, with deaths at an average of three per day. The Government had hoped that numbers would begin to drop in March but that wasn’t the case.

Mayari municipality, in the eastern Holguin province, is the second largest city in the region. During 2020, this highly infectious disease was efficiently kept in check, with just 14 positive cases being reported by the end of the year, three of which were native, and the rest were imported.

However, the situation so far in 2021 has been the exact opposite. During the “new normal”, we now have 137 confirmed cases in less than three months, most of which are native. 

That’s to say, 91% of the cases that have been diagnosed in the almost three months of this year so far. The only two deaths in the region have also been recorded in this same period of time.

Do they differ from national statistics?

By the end of 2021, 12,056 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Cuba during the 9 months of the pandemic, and there had been 146 fatalities. While in just two and a half months in 2021, these figures soared to 63,725 positive cases and 380 deaths.

That is to say, the average of positive cases per month between one year and the next has multiplied 16 times, while deaths have multiplied by 6. If we compare this to what is happening here in Mayari, we can see that the situation is a lot more critical than in the rest of the country, because the infection rate this year has been 25 times higher than last year and we’ve had deaths for the first time. 

“People thought that Mayari locals were naturally immune, because it seemed that we all had the virus without even knowing it. People didn’t even look after themselves and visitors came, who were in very close contact with locals here, and they didn’t become infected,” Gustavo said, a retired nickel industry worker.

“But we were wrong… look now, it’s strange now for a day to go by without lots of positive cases in Mayari reported by Dr. Duran. It seems like this won’t stop until they start vaccinating everyone,” he said.

Israel, a roaming salesman of garlic said: “They need to open up travel again so that “mules” can go and buy medicines in Haiti and we can buy them from them here, or for family members to bring them from the US, because nothing is coming in with us entrenched here, nothing is being sold, and COVID-19 is still spreading, and we are dying alive without medicines and food.”

Ramon, a farmer, believes that “Havana opened up in way too much haste (it entered the “new” normal phase too early). The country soon opened up to tourists, and the little revenue hotels brought in then had to be spent on PCR tests and taking care of infected patients. Havana was still reporting cases and with active outbreaks, and they decided to speed things up. That was fatal.”

Meanwhile, Ursula (a housewife) believes that “the worst thing was getting rid of Dr. Duran’s daily briefing, because people would listen to it every day and be aware of how serious the situation was. By taking it off the air and only having a weekly briefing, and people traveling in and out of the country, things became relaxed. Now, they’re going crazy because they don’t know how to stop it,” she said.

 What has happened for the situation to change?

There are many factors that could have influenced this boom in COVID-19 infections in Mayari and the country:

The winter season, with lower temperatures. The Government’s excessive confidence in its “exceptional” protocols led it to declare the “new normal” phase with haste in provinces that still had high levels of infection, including the capital. Similarly, there was an influx of visitors and travelers to all over the country.

As well as lockdown at home, to reduce public-sector costs, which has been hard to respect because of shortages of essential goods. Many doctor’s offices don’t have doctors working because they are on missions abroad.

It’s a fact that many Cubans prefer to take the risk and stay at home, hiding their symptoms from researchers. They fear being admitted into a hospital in deplorable conditions or forced into isolation centers. There are also serious medicine shortages in both, just like in the pharmacies.

Read more from Osmel Ramirez’s diary here on Havana Times.

One thought on “Mayari Sees Big Jump in Covid-19 Cases

  • Osmel writes: “The COVID-19 pandemic is out of control in Cuba…” Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic is out of control in Canada, specifically in the province of Ontario. The Ontario government has announced (Thursday, April 01/’21) a month long province wide “shut down”, (28 days to be exact), that is, restaurants, hair salons, barbershops, gyms, all to be closed, effective Saturday, April 03/’21.

    Why? Thursday, April 01/’21 marked the eighth straight day in which the province reported more than 2,000 daily COVID-19 cases. Those numbers replicate the worst scenario that occurred in early January where hospitals, particularly Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in southern Ontario, were about to be in excess of capacity creating a dire health care crisis. Today that crisis is being manifested again. According to CTV News (Wednesday, March 31, 2021) : “Without additional public health measures, modelling done by the University of Toronto predicted between 1,000 to 1,600 people could be in intensive care by the end of April.” Dire, indeed!

    From a national perspective involving all of Cuba, Osmel writes that the COVID-19 count “… has multiplied 16 times, while deaths have multiplied by 6.” That is not good. Moreover, he compares the Cuban national average with Mayari and the medical situation, unfortunately, is even worse. Now, deaths are happening. Again, a tragedy.

    Similarly, here in Ontario the COVID crisis has turned critical, particularly, in southern Ontario, Toronto, York, Peel, Hamilton, where these areas were in quasi lockdown mode in the recent weeks but now like the rest of the province will be in full shutdown mode for at least a month.

    Osmel poses the question: “What has happened for the situation to change?” In other words, the situation seemed to be improving as COVID case counts were decreasing and now the pandemic situation is no better off than what it was one year ago – both in Cuba and Canada. Certainly in Canada, new variant strains introduced into the country from abroad is one factor that has put a proverbial monkey wrench into the spokes of COVID constriction.

    During the pandemic in Cuba, Osmel writes one of the reasons Cubans would rather stay at home, if infected, is to keep away from authorities and “researchers”. He says: “It’s a fact that many Cubans prefer to take the risk and stay at home, hiding their symptoms from researchers.”
    In Canada, the exact opposite. Workers, particularly front line workers in low paying jobs will go to work even when the chances of getting infected are high because these lowly paid workers cannot afford financially to stay at home. The government refuses to pay workers if they get sick to stay home a few days to recuperate, so many out of sheer desperation go to work in order to feed their families and pay the rent. Their risk of infection and spread is astronomical.

    So what is the long term solution? Cuban doctor, Dr. Duran, is absolutely correct in his prognosis: “It seems like this won’t stop until they start vaccinating everyone,” he said.” Ditto for Canada, and ditto globally.

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