Black Immigrant Daily News
PHILIPSBURG — If there is one organization that deserves the spotlight for its performance in 2022 it is Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Services and Labor. StMaartenNews.com names CPS as its organization of the year.
At the head of CPS is epidemiologist Eva Lista-De Weever. She was appointed department head on February 4, 2020, after the position had been vacant for three years.
Lista-De Weever comes across as the ideal candidate for the position. She studied at three different universities, starting at George Mason University (from 2001 to 2006), followed by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University (from August 2007 until May 2009) and now the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (from August 2022 until May 2025). She studied public health microbiology and emerging infectious diseases, clinical laboratory science and medical technology and she is set to obtain her doctorate in public health at Chapel Hill.
All that seemed reason enough to name Eva Lista-De Weever as our Woman of the Year, but she has always shied away from publicity. She led CPS through the turbulent COVID-19 pandemic and this must obviously be considered as a team effort; hence our choice for CPS as the organization of the year. But Lista-De Weever’s training and experience played a crucial role in these events.
She started her public health career as an epidemiologist in California and St. Maarten before moving to Toronto in Canada in 2013. She worked for the Ontario Ministry of Health and long-term care for five years in public health/infectious disease policy and for the region of Peel Public Health in infection prevention and control. In 2020, Lista-De Weever continued her career as epidemiologist and department head of Collective Preventive Services.
On the government website, the mission of CPS is defined as “to register, prevent, eliminate and early follow up of diseases and respective disorders.” Maybe its vision statement will speak the strongest to citizens: “To enhance the quality of life of the population of St. Maarten.”
The CPS Facebook-page reports 1,900 followers and its pages are filled with what the organization stands for. Its ‘twelve days to Christmas’-campaign offers recommendations for personal and food hygiene.
And while many may think that the COVID-pandemic is now a thing of the past, CPS recommends that people continue to take preventive measures. Among those recommendations are hand washing for two minutes or using hand sanitizer than contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
“It is important to continue wearing your facemask, to maintain social distancing and to practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette. Persons with flu-like symptoms should remain at home until they have recovered.”
This advice illustrates how deep the COVID-pandemic has cut into the fabric of our society. Worldometer reported on December 30 the latest state of affairs for COVID in St. Maarten. There have been 10,988 corona-cases on the island and 89 people have died while 10,873 have recovered. There is a discrepancy of 26 in these numbers and it remains unclear what happened to them.
On February 24, 2022 the government announced the first uplifting message about the pandemic. On that date the country transitioned from pandemic to endemic status. Entry requirements were relaxed per March 1 whereby fully vaccinated travelers and those who had recovered from COVID no longer needed a negative PCR-test. Unvaccinated travelers would still need to show a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before arrival or an antigen test taken 24 hours before arrival. All travelers would still have to fill out a health pre-authorization form (EHAS) 72 hours before arrival. All entry-information was available on a dedicated website: stmaartenentry.com.
As the months went by and the COVID-scare more or less faded, CPS remained vigilant. On December 29, 2022, it still advised citizens to wear a facemask for visits to healthcare facilities like doctor’s offices, pharmacies, laboratories and hospitals. “Don’t become complacent at the height of the cold and flu season,” CPS warned.
In the meantime, the government announced that per November 1, 2022, travelers no longer needed to complete the EHAS-form. (EHAS stand for Electronic Health Authorization System).
Elsewhere efforts made by CPS and in particular by Eva Lista-De Weever also had their impact. Terrance Rey, Publisher of StMaartenNews.com notes that CPS “pulled off the miraculous balancing act of weighing health versus economics and tourism.”
The publisher adds that CPS was “critical in averting a public health crisis that strained our island’s human and financial resources. It also made a trajectory possible for our island to open back up its ports for visitors.”
Rey also mentions the complications he encountered at times with travelers for his intenational travel business, AirStMaarten. “I spent countless days and nights making urgent calls to CPS, its supervisors and its head Eva Lista-De Weever to get visitors approved when their application for whatever technical reason got held up.”
Visitors whose paperwork was in order sometimes got stuck during check-in because their EHAS application had not been approved yet. “Frantic calls to CPS usually helped to remedy the situation. But you had to know the right number to call.”
Rey takes his hat off to Lista-De Weever. “I think she was just appointed when the pandemic broke out. Without any rule book or game plan on how to deal with the unprecedented situation, she stood by the Prime Minister and the Public Health Minister day and night. I found her to be an extremely humble and shy person. She will never be the one to tout her own horn, but she amazingly managed to lead the organization through its most difficult and challenging times.”
Lista-De Weever has so far politely remained non-committal to a request for an interview with StMaartenNews.com. That could be because she is busy with her doctoral degree while taking care of her family with a daughter and twin boys.
Rey decided to give the epidemiologist the credit she and her organization deserve: “The strategic way to tout her horn indirectly is to nominate CPS as the Organization of the Year under the leadership of its head Eva Lista-De Weever.”
Interview with Eva Lista De Weever on Aging With Grace Linda Richardson on November 8, 2020>>>