Outbreak at Sandals – Yes, you can get COVID-19 at a resort

Dec 15, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated after TPG got a statement from Sandals Resorts International.

A growing outbreak of COVID-19 at Sandals Grenada has the government there scrambling to find out what happened and guests wondering what to do next.

The Ministry of Health confirmed a cluster of at least 26 cases including guests of the all-inclusive resort, employees and some of their contacts. That brings the country’s COVID-19 caseload to 71, and that number is expected to rise.

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I reached out to the resort, and they told me they wouldn’t answer questions, and were not talking to media. Later, however, we received a statement from Sandals Resorts International who told TPG:

“Grenada’s situation is an isolated one, the asymptomatic individuals were quickly identified, and we are collaborating with public health authorities to develop key learnings further. Out of an abundance of caution, the government has asked that we pause the acceptance of new arrivals for the next several days; however, the resort is currently open and fully operational for guests to enjoy.”

The news was first reported by The New Today newspaper in Grenada.

Grenada’s health minister Nickolas Steele reportedly ordered the evacuation of the resort on Sunday, but later backed away from that order as the resort is apparently being considered a “place of screening and assessment.”

More: A country-by-country guide to reopenings

Steele said they were investigating, “why, when and how the virus was able to spread at the hotel.”

Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell is scheduled to address the nation on Monday night.

According to published reports, guests at the luxury resort are not required to undergo regular testing while on the property, but all arrivals in the country do need to show they have proof of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival on the island.

We do not know exactly how the virus is being spread, but some reports suggest staff and guests have frequent interactions at the property. Like many Caribbean resorts, Sandals Grenada has multiple outdoor common spaces where guests congregate. Being outdoors much of the day, however, may not be enough by itself to protect guests from the virus.

Sandals says on its website that they are screening guests on arrival with temperature checks, but TPG couldn’t find mention of a mask requirement for guests. Staff are required to wear masks.

(Screenshot courtesy Sandals)

 

At a news conference on Sunday 13 December, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shawn Charles said that hundreds of additional tests are pending and the case loads are expected to climb, “It is very likely that this number will increase significantly.”

Still, the Minister of Health said in a statement the country would not go back into lockdown, “We have prepared for this eventually. We cannot afford to close our borders.”

The resort remains open for future bookings.

(Screenshot courtesy Sandals)

Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images.

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