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Aug 19, 2020

Fifth COVID-19 Patient, an Elderly Woman, Passes Away

Iris Rose Barillas

Early this morning, an elderly woman succumbed to the coronavirus at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.  Seventy-two-year-old Iris Rose Barillas is the first female locally not to survive the virus. She slipped in and out of coma at the K.H.M.H. and caved in today. Barrillas is believed to have been infected at a private facility in Belmopan. Her burial took place in Hope Creek, Stann Creek District this evening.  The family’s grief is compounded by the fact that the entire family is also positive with the virus. Here is Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Seventy-four-year-old Iris Rose Barillas is the most recent casualty of COVID-19 in Belize.  The elderly woman was rushed from the Belmopan Medical Center to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital here in Belize City a week ago, where she remained intubated.  According to Barillas’ family, the matriarch, along with her husband, had been taken to the facility in Belmopan a few days earlier, unbeknownst to them that there was in fact a cluster of cases among members of staff at that location.

Seven days after being hospitalized in a rapidly deteriorating condition, the resident of Hope Creek has become the fifth person to die of COVID-19.  She is also the oldest thus far to succumb to the dreaded disease.  To exacerbate an already unfortunate situation, five other members of her family, including her husband, have also tested positive.  On August twelfth when News Five spoke with Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Health Manager at the Western Regional Hospital, he shared that there were five persons who were diagnosed with COVID-19, Barillas was among them.


Javier Zuniga

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Regional Health Manager, Western Health Region [File: August 12th, 2020]

“Over the last week, we’ve had—as you all know or you all are aware—we had a little cluster at the Belmopan Medical Centre, so we have three persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 from the medical centre. Yesterday we also had one more positive case which is also linked to that first case at the centre. And then the other case, which would be the fifth case—so that’s four from the medical centre and we have a fifth case which is not linked to that particular medical centre but to San Pedro. So that’s what we have, five people who are active at this moment.”


This afternoon, Barillas’ body arrived in her home village where it was interred under strict public health protocols.  Those handling the casket, including the gravediggers, were all dressed in PPEs.  The family was kept at bay and was only allowed to witness the burial from a distance.  They assert that their parents had been taken to the private facility in Belmopan to avoid exposure to COVID-19 in the public health system.  Little did they know that she would come into direct contact with the disease there.  Registered pharmacist Elroy Franco, lab technician Jeser Leon are among the hospital staff that have also tested positive for COVID-19 at Belmopan Medical Center.  At the time this was what was shared.


Dr. Javier Zuniga [File: August 12th, 2020]

“We have one person hospitalized at the moment; the person is stable and has been progressing positively so we do expect that that individual will recuperate soon and will be able to go home to complete their quarantine. We continue doing the active surveillance in terms of the contact training which is very tedious, when we have people moving around, all over. It becomes hard to contact these individuals. So we are also asking if people know that they have been in contact with this medical centre to please contact us so that we can also reach out to any time of active surveillance with these individuals.”


While there was a contact tracing exercise in the immediate aftermath of those results, there was an appeal to patients who may have come in contact with the hospital staff to come forward and get tested.  We understand that four other members of Barillas’ family who were swabbed have been cleared of the disease. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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