The finding has set off alarms: during the past two weeks, more cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the southern area than during the first four and a half months of the pandemic.
According to official figures from the Department of Health, the agency has confirmed the appearance of 634 new cases of coronavirus in the Ponce Region since the elections of November 3, an increase of 28.1 percent, after which that period has become the one with the greatest spread of the virus since the emergency began on March 16.
“Cases are going up a lot,” warned the epidemiologist and professor at the Medical Sciences Campus, Cruz María Nazario Delgado. “This could get out of control.”
Only in the city of Ponce, 106 new cases were registered in those 14 days -an increase of 16.2 percent-, raising the accumulated total of infections to 758.
However, the highest percentage increases are observed in the municipalities of Villalba (+105 cases or 68.6 percent), Peñuelas (+39 cases or 58.2 percent), Jayuya (+36 cases or 50 percent) and Guayama (+ 62 cases or 45.2 percent).
Other municipalities such as Santa Isabel (+26 cases or 37.6 percent), Yauco (+63 cases or 31.3 percent), Juana Díaz (+66 cases or 31.1 percent), Salinas (+39 cases or 29.1 percent) and Coamo (+43 cases or 28.1 percent) have also shown a dramatic increase in diagnoses since Election Day.
“The problem was not necessarily the lines or at the polls, but rather that people gathered when they went out and we all saw the celebrations. They became super-propagating activities, ”said Nazario Delgado.
Only the municipalities of Guayanilla, Guánica and Patillas showed increases of less than 10 percent in the registry of cases, according to the Department of Health.
Still, the staggered increase has been consistent over the past three months.
Since the start of the primary process on the island on August 9, the number of Covid-19 cases in the Ponce Region has skyrocketed from 754 to 2,886, an increase of 282 percent.
Not only in the south
However, the soaring increase is not limited to the south. At the press of this edition, the Department of Health reported the accumulation of 42,790 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 951 deaths attributable to the virus.
Of those figures, 6,983 infections and 101 deaths from Covid-19 correspond to the period after election day.
Of this last group, 1,720 cases were detected in the metropolitan area and another 1,499 in the municipalities that comprise the Bayamón Region.
Be careful in the Metro area
In light of these data, Nazario Delgado pointed out that it is time to urge citizens to postpone their trips to the metropolitan area.
The epidemiologist issued the warning, given the proximity of the Christmas sales period during which thousands of people usually travel to shops in the capital to do their shopping.
“We all have a responsibility to reduce our exposure to minimize risk. That touches us all. And if you see that in one place there are many more cases than in other places, common sense tells us that we should avoid those places, ”he said.
“Right now, the statistics of the Department of Health have the metropolitan area at the highest levels of contagion. Everything is in red. And there are other municipalities like Ponce and Mayagüez that have quite a few cases. You have to be aware of that, ”he continued.
“The perception of danger has been lost”
When questioned about the factors that have accelerated the rise in cases, in addition to the caravans and electoral campaign closings, the epidemiologist acknowledged that the seriousness of the emergency has been lost from perspective, both at the government and community levels.
“People are already walking in the shopping centers, they are going out to eat as a family. They gather in groups to have a beer and crowd in the gondolas, as if nothing had happened, “he said.
“People have the perception that this is already ending and that there is no longer a problem. But that is also what they are seeing from the government. They don’t even talk about the virus anymore and everyone violates the executive order, like nothing else, ”he continued.
“At the beginning, when we had much fewer cases than now, there was this fear because it was something new, but now that the numbers are reaching alarming levels, nobody cares,” he added.
Likewise, Nazario Delgado noted the reduction in press conferences and messages from Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced about the epidemic, since she lost the primaries last August.
“The governor has thrown in the towel,” he declared. “What this last executive order did was reduce the capacity in the shops a little, but the businesses hardly pay attention to that anymore.”
“The government has set and continues to set a very bad example. The Secretary of Health scolds people and cries around the corners, because we are irresponsible, but according to what is said, he did not get infected at work. It means that he was also sharing in some activity in which he should not have been, ”he added.
“As the saying goes, only a madman thinks that if he keeps doing the same thing, he will have different results,” he added. “The same has been done, the same rules, but there is no one who watches that those rules are followed. We have denounced it for a long time and nothing has been done. Unfortunately, now we are going to see the effect ”.
Finally, Nazario Delgado was concerned about the false sense of security that recent notices could create about two vaccines that have shown potential for effectiveness.
“Many people think that the vaccine is just around the corner and that it will be like a magic wand, that everything will be solved overnight. But that could take months and it would be too late for those who get sick now and in the coming weeks, “he said.