The rebound in the confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the island and the increase in the rate of positive diagnostic tests that has been registered since mid-June should cause them to be evaluated – and even reconsidered – the measures taken to reopen certain economic and social sectors in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to several health experts consulted by this newspaper.
Yesterday, the Department of Health reported 204 new cases confirmed, the highest number reported in a single day. In addition, the agency reported 21 infections that had not been previously reported with a sample collection date of March 26 to June 19.
Health, also announced yesterday the first confirmed contagion of coronavirus in a resident of a senior center. It was not specified whether this case, detected on Sunday, is already contained in official health statistics.
“The measures so strict that we took really helped to lower, that the virus fell as much as possible in Puerto Rico. But, once certain activities began to become more flexible and once more people began to move from the United States to here, and above all, if we see that the states right now where things are most critical are Texas and Florida, we know that it began to enter the virus again, the contagion begins in the community "said psychiatrist Karen Martínez, one of the members of the Medical Advisory Group created by the governor Wanda Vázquez Garced .
The confirmed infections of coronaviruses were placed yesterday at 2,071. Meanwhile, probable infections increased to 6,514, with 452 new ones, of which 119 had not been reported and had a sample date of April 13 to June 18.
Throughout this weekend, situations were exposed in which people failed to take the necessary protective measures while in public places, such as beaches. But Martínez recalled that the incubation period for the novel coronavirus is approximately 14 days, so in two weeks it will be known if these meetings and parties generated an increase in infections.
"These cases that are being seen now, we are talking about (infections) that occurred a week or two ago, "he said.
This coincides with the celebration of Father's Day and the entry into force of the third phase of economic reopening, which from of June 16 allowed the increase in the capacity of customers in stores and restaurants, as well as the opening of spaces such as cinemas, gyms and beaches, among others.
Martínez recalled that the phases of economic reopening that the first executive has implemented The past two months have not followed the recommendations made by the so-called medical “task force” in April.
“We are at a point where, if we take the appropriate measures, if we make sure we take care of ourselves, we can lower that level of contagion, "said Martínez.
" Seeing what has been happening, what the doctors tell us is happening, our recommendation is to reconsider the reopening phases, which look a bit more like what We recommend, "he added.
For example, the spokesperson for the Advisory Group stressed that it cannot be planned in the long term, but in periods of three weeks at most. Given this, she emphasized that it is still early to make decisions about the start of classes.
The governor, for her part, insisted that it is the responsibility of each individual to take the necessary measures to avoid contagions with the coronavirus.
" We have to trust the people, that they respect, that the people know the risk because COVID is there, it has not left, "said Vázquez Garced in a radio interview (La X).
Given this increase in cases, Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano held a meeting yesterday with the agency's team of scientists and epidemiologists to discuss the data, as well as efforts to control the arrival of travelers to the island's airports and keep COVID-free. 19 long-term care facilities. Subsequently, he met with Vázquez Garced.
The Secretary of Health said yesterday that, in the meeting with the governor, the possibility of reversing the plan to reopen economic and governmental activity that has already been established was not discussed.  “We keep looking at the numbers. If there were any kind of impact on the variables, we would be communicating it to the governor and we would make the pertinent recommendations, "he said.
" The positives worry us because they are young people who are going to get infected but are not going to get sick. , and what we are saying to that group is that they can transmit the virus to another person with greater risk and with chronic conditions. So in that context, people are being told to be careful, "said González Feliciano.
Alert for travelers
Most of the new infections are related to travelers who arrived on the island last month, the psychiatrist revealed.
“The 'task force' has continued to evaluate all cases through the networks of hospitals and doctors. Almost all the doctors, throughout Puerto Rico, agree that these cases that we began to see had a family member who comes from the United States, "said Martínez.
In the past few weeks, outbreaks of COVID-19 were reported in municipalities such as Canóvanas and Guayanilla, caused precisely by infected individuals who came to Puerto Rico to visit relatives. Martínez explained that more infections occurred in this way, but they were not identified as outbreaks, since there was no contact with many people.
Vázquez Garced announced that, on July 15, new rules will be implemented for people who reach the island. These should undergo a coronavirus diagnostic test, known as a molecular test, 72 hours before arriving in Puerto Rico, and have a negative result. Those who do not undergo the molecular test should be in quarantine on the island for 14 days.
The pulmonologist Luis Nieves Garrastegui, former president of the Puerto Rican Society of Pneumology, fears that the entry into force of these restrictions will be late. "See what we are seeing, what happened this weekend, between now and July 15, people from the United States will continue to arrive. People who are entering the island who could be positive without knowing it, are going to continue invading the island, "said Nieves Garrastegui.
According to Health data, yesterday there were 115 hospitalized people diagnosed with COVID-19. Of these, 11 individuals required respirators.
The executive president of the Hospital Association, Jaime Plá, maintained that the number of hospitalizations has remained stable in recent weeks, hovering around 1% of hospital beds available in the country.
“We are not going to press a panic button yet because we are having a problem, not yet. But I do have to say that the increases in people infected, obviously, are the product of having opened, there is more contact between people … Unless we see this rise above 140, 150, 160 hospitalizations, well, no (it would generate alarm "Said Plá.
The Secretary of Health insisted that the capacity of the health and hospital services is not compromised, so the increase in cases has not caused alarm. For example, he stressed that among patients in units of intensive care, only 4% is related to COVID-19.
Nieves Garrastegui recalled that, between May and June, the number of hospitalized for COVID-19 came to be 20.
More positive tests
Beyond confirmed cases and positive probable cases, the Secretary of Health yesterday recognized an increase in the rate of molecular tests for COVID-19 with positive results in Puerto Rico.
An analysis carried out by the agency showed that l The figure has been on the rise since early and mid-June. According to data provided to El Nuevo Día, from June 25 to 30, there was an increase of 1.4% in the positivity rate to stand at 2.4%. When compared to June 1 (0.7%), the increase was 1.7%.
“We have been looking at that number, what are called positives from tests carried out, and that number remained close to 1%. The latest report given by Dr. Miguel Valencia (director of the Surveillance System) reflects that this number increased to 2.4%. When we look at science, scientists claim that this number should be between 2% and 5%, but other scientists claim that it may be between 2% and 12%, "said the secretary.
At the beginning of the health emergency public, the positivity rate was around 10%, but began to drop in late March.
González Feliciano explained that the main concern of Health is that only 10% of positive cases could show symptoms of the disease, while that 90% have the capacity to transmit the virus to people from vulnerable populations and with chronic conditions without knowing that they are infected.
In fact, the case that was disclosed yesterday of a resident of a Carolina senior center it was detected after the 61-year-old man was hospitalized, said the secretary of the Family, Orlando López Belmonte.
“In this case, the older adult was admitted for symptoms not related to COVID-19 and after performing the test It was positive, "said López Belmonte in written statements.
The retired professor of Public Health and demographer Judith Rodríguez recalled that it is estimated that 49% of deaths from COVID-19, in the United States, occurred in aegis , communities for retirees and long-term care centers.
"It is very worrying that we have this case, and it will be necessary to evaluate how not only the residents, but also the employees, are managing themselves," he said.
La Reporter Leysa Caro González collaborated on this note.