Although Puerto Rico maintains a positivity rate of COVID-19 which has been around 30% for almost three months, the Secretary of Health, Carlos Mellado, expressed himself in accordance with the philosophy of “relaxing” the restrictions imposed, in accordance with the decision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which this week eliminated the 40-strong recommendation that remained in effect for people who come into contact with infected patients and the guidelines for physical distancing.
“I understand that we do need to start making it more flexible, we need to start empowering the patient with their health. The patient must be responsible, use the mask if you understand that you have a close family member who may be exposed; if it comes out positive, go to the pharmacy and seek treatment; if you are over 50, get monoclonal. In other words, we have a series of alternatives that enable us to continue living,” said the secretary.
However, Mellado pointed out soon the Health Department will formally express himself on the announcement that the CDC issued yesterday.
The CDC briefly dropped the recommendation that people without up-to-date vaccinations who have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine for about five days. Instead, the new guidelines suggest that, as with those who are fully vaccinated, they maintain freedom of movement and observe the use of masks for 10 days and take a test on the fifth day.
They also noted that physical distancing of six feet, rather than a mandate, should be respected based on the levels of transmission in each community.
In Puerto Rico, the Department of Health has already eliminated distancing mandates in public places, while maintaining a forty-day requirement for contacts of COVID-19 patients who are not up to date on their vaccinations.
Mellado explained that he will hold meetings today with the chief epidemiological officer, Melissa Marzán, to later determine the course to follow in response to the CDC guidelines.
“We will express ourselves soon, and analyze what the situation is in Puerto Rico, how the numbers are, how the vaccinated patients are, how the percentage of positivity is, which is something that already seems high, but if you compare it with hospitalization versus mortality (so many deaths are not reflected),” said Mellado.
“Unfortunately, those who die are those over 65 (with) chronic diseases who don’t have all their vaccines, they haven’t sought monoclonal treatment or antiviral treatment. And all this is in all pharmacies and is completely free. We continue to emphasize vaccination and, if they have COVID, early treatment,” added Mellado, who attended a Senate discussion today on alternatives to keep doctors in the country.
School emphasizes masks
In turn, the president of the College of Physicians, Carlos Diaz Velezexpressed that vaccinations and the continuous use of masks are the key to being able to control the transmission of the virus, which until yesterday reflected a positivity of 33%.
“I agree that (COVID) is here to stay, but we still have a lot of positivity, people are dying. I think we can be even stricter, precisely by using the mask, which is the number one protection, and that people are vaccinated. There are many people here who are not fully vaccinated,” said the doctor, who agreed with the health minister in the senate.
Currently, the Department of Health only requires the use of masks on school campuses.
“If it is a necessity, it is done in Puerto Rico, that is, in Puerto Rico you see a lot of use, but if it has to be done, let it be done, because people are used to it. Of course I wouldn’t want to, but the positivity hasn’t waned. Out of every 100 people, 30 are positive. It is not controlled,” said Díaz Vélez.