There are still several burning questions that have not been answered by Ministry of Health authorities in the death of 77-year-old Hansel Leon, a US citizen who succumbed to complications from the COVID-19 on Wednesday close to noon at the Couva Hospital. The one thing that seems certain, however, is that the Ministry’s of Health’s contact tracing net for persons he may have come into contact with will have to be cast wide.
During a post-Cabinet media briefing opn Thursday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram skirted around several questions raised about Leon and failed to give clear answers on when the patient was first admitted to a medical facility before he was later transferred to the Couva Hospital, where his condition worsened.
But Guardian Media was able to obtain some vital information not only concerning Leon’s travel but also his activity over the last few weeks with a friend of the man’s relatives.
Senior immigration sources told Guardian Media that Leon, who was staying at his sister’s house in South Trinidad, arrived in the country on flight BW521 on February 7 from New York. The man also visited Trinidad last year, arriving on February 20 and leaving on March 22 - senior immigration sources added.
“He comes every year for Carnival,” a family friend said Thursday.
In the weeks leading up to Carnival, Leon had been socialising and attending public events.
“For all of February he was fine but one of his close relatives where he was staying told him he should not be venturing out so often because of COVID-19,” revealed the family friend.
But on March 1, the week after Carnival, there was a gathering Leon attended along with his friend, also from New York, where there were several other foreign nationals also present, the family friend said.
“I know that he passed out on a chair from tiredness that night and his friend later took him home. About four days later (March 5) he went to a funeral,” the family friend said.
A few days later, Leon fell ill and his friend from New York, who had gone to visit him at his relative’s home, said he did not look well and they decided to call an ambulance.
“From what I was told, he was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital and I know when they admitted him he gave his son’s contact information in Atlanta,” said the friend.
The friend said they believe it was “quite likely that someone else who was ill with the virus may have passed it on to him.”
Leon seems to have been taken to the Couva Hospital sometime between March 13 and 15, where he was being treated until he died on Wednesday, which would suggest he took well over the two to 14-day period which current medical experts suggest before showing symptoms after exposure.
Parasram said there were outliers (anomalies) that didn’t fix the general statistic trend with his case. He said in some cases, patients could show symptoms up to 42 days after.
“All of us have been working with 14 days and we are hoping to God that it is right. There has been shown viremic patients up to 42 days in the research, some as far as beyond 42 days, documented 21 days and carrying viral illness.”
However, he steered clear of indicating when Leon was admitted and if he was admitted around March 13, why his case wasn’t declared to the pubic in some measure since the first two cases declared by the Ministry of Health did not match his age. The ages of the first two COVID-19 patients were 52 and 66 respectively.
Up to Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health, T&T had 65 confirmed cases of COVID and 415 people had been tested.