The almost total reopening of the Country – which is feared will lead to an increase in Covid-19 infections – must be accompanied by a strategic testing campaign, as well as the carrying out of an investigation and tracking process, the epidemiologist Melissa Marzán said yesterday.
“The flexibilization process must be accompanied by a test campaign strategy. I cannot open, for example, labor sectors and that those employees do not have access to take a test if there is an event at work. For example, under the rule that exists now, if I was exposed to close contact but I do not present symptoms, it does not necessarily have a priority to take a test, “said the scientist.
“So obviously that easing process has to be accompanied by a strategic test campaign. And second, that these flexibilization processes also require communicating that it is a public security problem; so salvation is not individual as we are made to see on many occasions, “said the epidemiologist.
The role of the state
He clarified that although citizens do have the responsibility to use security measures when they go out to open spaces such as beaches or other places that the State is responsible for regulating, the government also has to offer the mechanisms to follow.
“That is the responsibility of the State and has nothing to do with individual security. That itself has been a great failure, risk communication. During these six months there has never been a person who is an expert in communication from the government addressing the population and – with great respect – the governor is not an expert in risk communication, nor is the Secretary of Health (Lorenzo González), ”Marzán pointed out.
He considers that regardless of the public policy of what is opened and what is closed, people should know that there is still risk when they go out.
“If the restaurant is open at 50% (capacity) that doesn’t mean that I have to run to the restaurant. In fact, there are different levels of risks in restaurants and I can support my restaurant, ordering by phone and going to pick up. And I think that has not been a message that has been carried and I think that part of the problem is that the goal is always which economic sector opens ?, and that should not be a goal. There has to be a goal that transcends the economic sectors. What if Puerto Rico’s goal is to control the epidemic so that schools reopen? ”Marzán said.
For his part, the epidemiologist of the Municipality of Añasco, Raúl López de Victoria, warned that the government has been inculcating people for a period to avoid going out unless necessary and now the flexibility creates a false sense of confidence, of that everything is under control or that the risk of contagion with Covid-19 was mitigated “and that may lead to a greater number of cases.”
“What are open are closed areas —such as the cinema, the gym— or open —such as a swimming pool in inns and hotels— and it can lead to a greater agglomeration of people and this is irrigated by contact and air particulate , so the greater the agglomeration of people, the greater the probability that an infected person – in these asymptomatic groups – can infect a greater number of people, “said the doctor.
He agreed with Marzán that the emphasis should be on education and on creating awareness that flexibility does not mean that permission was given to go out and take risks.
Similarly, he commented that Añasco is working on a community contact campaign to educate its residents, providing safety equipment.
He affirmed that the current level of contagion is community. “In the last report of the Municipal System for Investigation of Cases and Tracking of Contacts, it was identified that family members are the largest source of new cases and that worries me because with the reopening that is being done now, these places that are visited by families. Covid-19 is not going to give us time to take advantage of the easing. These are areas where there are families and from all over the island. I think it puts us in a very vulnerable position to outbreaks that cannot be detected, ”said López de Victoria.
He mentioned that prior to the reopening in government agencies, he had already seen positive cases of coronavirus in the dependencies where he had begun to work in person.
“The problem is that it is a process that is up to the employer to adapt to this. What things can be done electronically? For example, the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) has published modified applications to be able to offer a greater number of services. It is not entirely the solution, but it is a step in the right direction, “he said.