The governor Pedro Pierluisi recognized this Sunday that Puerto Rico is in the midst of a rebound in cases of COVID-19 “sustained”, for which he called on citizens to practice prevention measures and anticipated that the Department of Health, as established by administrative order, would require the use of masks in mass activities.
“Certainly, we are seeing a sustained rebound in cases, which is why we insist on our recommendations to our people to take the individual protection measures that we all already know: the use of masks, distancing, washing hands, as well as carrying out tests. diagnoses and isolate yourself from having symptoms,” stated in written statements to The new day.
Pierluisi reiterated that he maintains constant communication with the Secretary of Health, Carlos Mellado“who informs me every day about the status of the hospitals, which fortunately are totally under control and with ample capacity to serve our citizens.”
Likewise, he indicated that he is kept informed about the advances in the vaccination process and reinforcements, as well as the treatments available to prevent the severity of the virus.
“At this stage of the pandemic, the focus is on the prevention measures, the boosters, the tests and the treatments that we have available. In any case, we remain vigilant and the Department of Health, according to its current administrative order, will be applying the restrictions that are necessary, such as requiring masks in crowded activities”, Pierluisi posed.
The use of the mask in closed spaces where there is a crowd of people is key to avoiding an excessive rise in COVID-19 infections in Puerto Rico, two doctors agreed, at a time when the positivity rate in the archipelago exceeded 19% .
In fact, the doctor Victor Ramos, president of the College of Medical Surgeons of Puerto Rico, recalled this Sunday that administrative order 2022-533 of the Secretary of Health, to which the governor referred, establishes that, in mass events, the use of a mask will not be required when the island is at a low transmission level. But if that level were raised to moderate or high, “mask use will be included.” However, Health has not required it.
The COVID-19 positivity rate reported today was 19.42%, a slight increase compared to the 19.29% registered on Saturday, according to the Department of Health.
The most recent report on the Situation of the COVID-19 Epidemic in Puerto Rico, prepared by the Office of the Chief Health Epidemiology Officer, maintains that the classification of community transmission in general for the island, during epidemiological week number 14, was high (red color). That analysis covers from April 3 to 9, and after those dates the figures reported by Salud daily have continued to increase.
The report itself, in its Public Health recommendations, expresses the need to continue with prevention measures at the population level, specifically “use of masks in closed spaces and crowded events, hand washing, physical distancing, opting for activities in open spaces, not crowded and continuing to promote vaccination.” No Health manager had been available for interview at the time of this edition.
Ramos indicated that the Scientific Coalition – a group of which he is a part – will meet on Tuesday, as usual, to discuss the rise and, above all, take into account the activities observed during Holy Week -both secular and religious- and their effect. in terms of infections. So far, the Coalition has not issued recommendations regarding restrictive measures such as capacity limitation or others that were left without effect in Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s Executive Order 2022-019, which entered into force on March 10.
“You have to see what happens on weekends and more this one. We knew there would be crowds, we have to see what will happen. […] Certainly, the more it continues to rise and the more (the contagion) approaches the vulnerable, over 50, it is more likely that recommendations will have to be submitted at some point ”, raised.
The pediatrician expressed concern that, beyond infections among young people – who usually tolerate the disease better – there is also an increase among older adults and adults over 50 years of age, populations that are at greater risk of complications.
The 65-74 age group had reached a low point of 3.5 unique cases (with molecular and antigen test results) per 100,000 on March 12, following the omicron spike between December and February. But on Saturday that rate was at 18.9. As for the group of 75 years or older, it reached its lowest point on March 11 with 2.7, but on Saturday it stood at 14.7, according to monitoring published by Dr. rafael irizarry, biostatistician and professor at Harvard University. According to monitoring, as of April 16, Puerto Rico was reporting 1,332 new cases per day. The current rise is due to the advancement of the BA.2 sublineage of the omicron variant.
“What we are seeing is what we expected to see from omicron BA.2, which is an extremely infectious organism and this uptick is the same thing that is happening in the rest of the world,” said the infectologist Miguel Colón, who treats COVID-19 patients at Hospital Auxilio Mutuo, Ashford Hospital and San Juan Municipal Hospital. Colón maintained that, given the current scenario, he does not see a need to implement greater restrictions.
“I would continue to encourage the population to be vaccinated, the new emphasis of the vaccine is the prevention of death”, he stated. “COVID is in the world to stay. We will continue to see variants and sublineages.”
In addition to vaccination, Colón emphasized the use of the mask in places where there are crowds of people, “such as coliseums, theaters, closed places where there are many people, hand washing and physical distancing.”
Through a tweet, Health reported that the total number of people hospitalized for the virus stood at 127 today -94 adults and 33 pediatric patients-, which represents an increase of seven patients compared to the previous day.
“The hospitals are not full, we are quite low on the census. In none of my three hospitals are there COVID patients in intensive care, they are all on the regular floors and many of the patients I have in the hospital are super stable”, Columbus stated.
Ramos, for his part, stressed that “hospitalizations have been increasing, not yet at levels that compromise the system,” but reiterated the concern about infections among older adults or vulnerable groups that may require hospitalization.