Hospital staff at the Emergency Department of the Point Fortin Area Hospital, on Wednesday.

On March 22, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram cautioned that Trinidad and Tobago was on the verge of a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. Still, very little could have been done to prepare the population mentally for the COVID carnage during May 2021.

The month ended yesterday with 16 more people dying from the virus and 271 new cases reported. In total 326 people lost their lives in May driving the death toll close to the 500 mark.

In just three months, the country’s seven-day rolling average of daily cases rose from three to four cases a day in February to nearly 550 at the peak of the surge for the month just concluded.

The parallel healthcare system was pushed to its limits. On multiple occasions, it was on the brink of collapse. The system stood against the latest wave of cases, but the ambulance system, testing laboratories, doctors, and nurses have been overwhelmed.

Cases, deaths soar in T&T

Preliminary numbers for May 2021 places it at the top for Trinidad and Tobago regarding the number of people tested, cases, deaths, recoveries, and patients requiring hospitalisation.

May 2021 ended yesterday with 326 people losing their lives to COVID-19. This monthly death toll is over 2.5 times the death toll for the entirety of 2020 and over six times more deadly than the last deadliest month, September 2020, where 54 people succumbed to the disease.

During May, there were 15 days where over ten deaths were reported and two days with over 20 deaths reported. In fact, the country’s top ten deadliest days for the pandemic all occurred during May 2021.

It took 402 days for T&T to cross 10,000 COVID-19 cases from March 12, 2020, when the first case was detected. It only took 26 more days to cross 20,000 cases during May 2021.

As of May 31, the country has reported 13,085 COVID-19 cases for the entire month. However, due to the delay in results, this number is expected to rise. Still, the current number is approximately 6,000 more cases recorded for May compared to all of 2020. In fact, compared to the last month with the highest case total, April 2021, May 2021 has reported over 4.5 times more cases.

The preliminary number of samples submitted for testing, at 50,491, in the last month marks the highest number of samples submitted within a month for the pandemic to date. The actual number is likely higher, as samples submitted by private laboratories are batch reported, with the updated figure not supplied by the Ministry of Health as of press time.

With increased cases, came both increased hospitalisations and recovered patients. There were 472 patients in COVID-19 hospitals and 207 patients in COVID-19 step-down or transitional facilities at the month’s peak. While hospital beds were strained, the country’s bed capacity tripled during the month, preventing the system from collapsing. Still, several hospitals’ occupancy ranged from 75 per cent to 100 per cent throughout the month of May.

Tobago’s deadly month

Tobago was not spared the country-wide surge. While cases began to rise in April, May significantly eclipsed April’s COVID-19 numbers in all accounts.

Before May 2021, the island’s death toll stood at two. During the month, eleven people succumbed to the deadly disease, driving the death toll to 13. Seven of those deaths occurred in the last seven days.

May 2021, with 279 cases reported in Tobago, was over four times the number of cases reported in April and nearly two times the number of cases reported for all of 2020.

May ended in Tobago with the second-highest active case count at 163, only down from May 30 record high of 168.