Mass retesting of staff at company with cluster of Covid-19 positive cases

by Linda Straker

  • All employees will be retested on Friday, 8 May 2020
  • The first patient at Caribbean Agro Industries was Grenada’s #15 positive case
  • Patient 15 was not the first point of contact

Two weeks after Ministry of Health officials ordered a company to close its doors because of the growing number of positive Covid-19 persons among staff, all employees will be retested on Friday, 8 May 2020 as part of a re-opening assessment.

The first patient at Caribbean Agro Industries — which is the island’s lone flour mill and animal feed processor — was Grenada’s #15 positive case. At the time of the announcement, Health Minister, Nickolas Steele, said that it was unknown how he became infected because he was not in contact with any of the previously confirmed cases on the island. In successive days, a cluster of 4 other cases was linked to the workplace.

On Wednesday, 6 May 2020, Dr George Mitchell, Covid-19 Response Coordinator, said that the mass testing must be done before the company is given the approval to re-open. “Come Friday morning, we have also arranged to retest all of them. That organisational effort is already in train; we have been in contact with the management of the company,” he said. “They will all come there for ease of doing business, maintaining first and foremost the social distancing and wearing of their mask and we will have all of them tested before we can contemplate giving the green light to open that institution,” Dr Mitchell said.

He also disclosed that medical background investigation through contact tracing has concluded that patient 15 may not have been the first case at the company, but was the first laboratory-confirmed patient because he showed symptoms during his early incubation stage.

“When all our investigations were done, we found out that patient 15 was not the first patient in that company that had symptoms. We found that there were other persons one or two who had symptoms before him, he was the first one who actually got very sick,” Dr Mitchell shared. “So that has changed the dynamics in terms of the thinking process and it will mean or may mean or suspected that the infection at Caribbean Agro did not emanate from patient 15. He was not the first point of contact.”

“Theories abound in this regard, but it seems to be a contamination from a person coming from outside of Caribbean Agro to purchase feed. The strong theory is that someone may have come in there and contaminated one or two persons, or one person that eventually contaminated another person,” he added.

“Patient 15 just happens to be the first person exhibiting symptoms. In hindsight that may not have been the case of him being patient zero for that cluster,” Dr Mitchell said, confirming that all the crew members on a boat which brought wheat for the mill at Caribbean Agro tested negative by the Grenadian authorities.

The closure of the company has negatively impacted the poultry and livestock industries and an emergency shipment of animal feed had to be imported from Trinidad through the Poultry Producers Association. Government has also given a licence for another company to import feed.

Caribbean Agro which is owned by the US company ADM, has had a monopoly on the production and supply of animal feed and flour in the country for many years.

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