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Puerto Rico Public Health Trust warns of rising COVID-19 cases

By on June 30, 2020

SAN JUAN – After more than 225,000 molecular tests analyzed by private reference laboratories, the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust (PRPHT), a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, along with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, warned on Tuesday about the increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.

Besides being a non-profit organization created to foster job creation in the knowledge economy by promoting investment in research, development and commercialization, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust is also responsible for the island’s public policy for science, technology and research.

“We are satisfied with the capacity that private reference laboratories are carrying out with molecular tests, but we also remain vigilant in the face of the possible increase in infections after the opening of the economy and the airport,” said Dr. José F. Rodríguez Orengo, executive director of the PRPHT. “People have a false perception that the virus has been eliminated and what is increasingly observed is the lack of the use of a mask and the elimination of physical distance.”

According to data from the reference laboratory consortium, since the beginning of May, there had been a weekly incidence of positive cases of less than 1% (less than 100 positive cases per week), which represents one of the lowest numbers in the United States,” the Health Trust said. “However, in the last two weeks, there has been a considerable increase in the number of infected persons (about 200 cases) and, if the trend continues, the infection curve could reverse the prevention efforts implemented with great effectiveness by the Puerto Rican community.”

The press release quoted Health Secretary Lorenzo González as saying that the “main sources of infection in the past two weeks have been found by Puerto Ricans of the diaspora who have come to visit their relatives. Also, Puerto Ricans have left the Island (Ciales, Canóvanas, Guayanilla, Hatillo); and upon returning, have infected their family nucleus and friends.”

Rodríguez Orengo added: “Our Achilles heel at present is the entry into Puerto Rico of infected travelers, so it is necessary to do mandatory molecular tests and trace contacts to family members who visit us to avoid contagion in our communities.”

The PRPHT stressed two “essential points to limit the increase of infected people in Puerto Rico.”

The first is to “take concrete actions” at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. On Tuesday as well, Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced a new executive order that will require passengers to provide evidence that they tested negative for the disease in the 72 hours before they arrived, or be placed under mandatory quarantine until they undergo testing and receive negative results.

The second action urged by the Health Trust is to resume basic precautionary measures.

“The second important aspect is to keep watch over our daily activities to avoid community contagion. In order to make people identify with these activities, we have called them the health trilogy, which consists of: (1) hand washing for a minimum of 20 seconds, (2) the correct use of the mask, and (3) the physical distance of at least 6 feet away,” the trust’s press release reads.

The Health secretary added that “we are facing a new reality in which we can take two paths, the first: forget about the sacrifice we have made so far and return to having hundreds or thousands of people infected with COVID-19 in Puerto Rico; or maintain our social responsibility to continue the trend of few infections on the Island. The decision is up to all of us and I hope we can grow as a country.”

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