As the summer officially begins, the airlift between Puerto Rico and other parts of the world -mainly the United States- increases the possibility that the apparent low transmission of COVID-19 on the island yields to the Experts consulted by El Nuevo Día warned travelers infected with the virus entering through airports.
The recent cases of small outbreaks in Ciales and Canóvanas have had as a common origin the arrival on the island of a person from United States.
The large number of Puerto Ricans residing in the United States -which for 2017 was estimated at 5.6 million- and the expectation of more visitors to the island due to the opening to foreign tourism, on July 15, could create the The perfect storm for infections to multiply if strict measures are not taken at airports and other points of entry to detect infected people and avoid transmission chains.
“There are places, in the United States, such as New York, Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Florida), Houston (Texas), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Hartford (Connecticut) and New Jersey, where there is more risk (of contagion) because They have many cases and many Puerto Ricans live. They are areas of great concern for tourists as well, "said infectologist Miguel Colón.
Although New York stood, until now, as the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the United States, between Thursday and yesterday, Florida has added 14,572 cases after three consecutive records: 3,207 on Thursday, 3,822 on Friday and 4,049 on Saturday, according to data from that State Department of Health collected by the EFE Agency.
Colón, who recently traveled to Florida, commented that, During his stay, he observed a large number of people without masks, one of the recommended measures to minimize the risk of contagion.
"We cannot deny that (people enter the country), but we can be very aggressive (at airports) and ask where they are going to be in case a case is detected and we have to do 'contact tracing', "said Colón.
According to the infectologist, the COVID-19 outbreak that occurred a few days ago in Ciales is something that could be multiplied in different parts of the country. This outbreak arose as a result of a Puerto Rican resident in the United States who traveled to the country to take care of her sick father and, during her stay, participated in several family events.
The woman died and, as of Thursday, 15 cases, two of which required hospitalization, reported Dr. Luis Mayol, epidemiologist from the Municipality of Ciales.
"The weight of all this is in screening at the airport, which is the first line of defense to detect sick people Mayol emphasized. "People should also be aware and postpone family parties a little until there is a cure or treatment," he added.
Mayol said that, with a view to strengthening the tracking of cases, Ciales is in the process of establishing an alliance with the neighboring towns of Manatí, Barceloneta and Morovis to share data to help identify chains of virus transmission.
In Canóvanas, meanwhile, a case similar to that of Ciales was identified after a Puerto Rican resident in the United States traveled to the island apparently infected. According to Mayor Lornna Soto, as of Friday, five infections related to that case had been identified.
Soto indicated that, in Canóvanas, there are 24 active cases under monitoring. In the mayor's opinion, the municipalities are handcuffed, as they cannot compel infected people or those suspected of contagion to stay in their homes in quarantine, since that power is only held by the Secretary of Health. For now, he commented that they are reviewing the Public Order Code to evaluate what restrictions and sanctions they could impose.
The situation in Florida is worrying
The infectologist Jorge Santana is concerned about the effect it may have on the island the upturn in COVID-19 cases in Florida.
“If all airports reopen and precautions are not taken, what is happening in Florida could be repeated in Puerto Rico. If the airport is dropped and many people come, we will have problems, "said Santana, who urged that all passengers arriving on the island be screened for the virus.
The pulmonologist Luis Nieves Garrastegui agreed in that the airport continues to be the "most important" source of contagion. It was also agreed that the number of cases of COVID-19 that have been identified in Florida and other states with a large population of Puerto Ricans, such as Texas, represents a risk due to the possibility that they travel to the island and infect others.
“We have to be more forceful in this monitoring at the airport. It cannot be closed, but it can reinforce measures, such as the use of masks on the plane and at the airport. Also, to reinforce the use of molecular tests for everyone who enters the island, "said the former president of the Puerto Rican Society of Pneumology.
" For everyone who enters, the molecular test must be done and repeated on the fourth or fifth day. If the patient declines, he should go 14 days in isolation. It is necessary to be more rigorous with the screening of people who come from hot places, "he concluded.