Sixth Case of Covid-19 Confirmed in Puerto Rico
Doctors Now Allowed to Order Testing
SAN JUAN — Only hours before the administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez’s task force announced Wednesday that the Health Department changed how cases of patients who are hospitalized or who go to a hospital to receive medical attention for novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) symptoms are handled, a sixth case of infection was confirmed. Testing for Covid-19 will now be up to the doctors themselves, not the Health Department, La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Osvaldo Soto told the media during a teleconference.
“The criteria of having regional epidemiologists authorize the testing has been eliminated under these new guidelines,” Soto said. “These recommendations have been communicated to the hospitals so that everyone is clear and the cases and tests can be managed. The governor has also requested and it has been included in the new guidelines that priority will be given to those patients over 65 years old, who are the people that are most vulnerable to this virus.”
Secretary of State Elmer Román said the federal government continues activating financial, operational and other resources and has activated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Level 1 status.
“In terms of financial resources, they are providing around $8.3 billion to work on the emergency and activating FEMA,” Román said, explaining that “what is important about this, and like the vice president [Mike Pence] said, is the need to take early action as we are doing here in Puerto Rico to be able to buy time and ensure in this case that we can minimize the propagation of the virus.”
Román stressed thne importance of the Health Department change in the handling of Covid-19 cases and the fact doctors may now request a patient be tested without having to call the Health Department’s epidemiologist for authorization.
“If the doctor considers that the symptoms are related to [the novel] coronavirus, they can request for the test to be done and the sample will be taken,” Román assured. “Today, we have a total of 57 cases under evaluation that have been registered and tested by the Health Department laboratory; of this total, 31 cases were negative, five positive and 21 cases are pending results.”
Meanwhile, Soto said all the positive cases have been “imported.”
“These were people who came from a cruise or traveled by airplane to visit a family member. Two of the positive cases were infected by a family member that visited from abroad,” Soto said.
Some six suspected cases have been reported in the island’s metropolitan area, three suspected cases in Arecibo, two in Fajardo, three in Mayagüez, one in Ponce and four in Caguas, Soto told Caribbean Business.
Results are pending for a 3-year old girl in Mayagüez who was tested Wednesday.
State Epidemiologist Carmen Deseda said there have not been any “homegrown,” or community-acquired, cases where the source of the infection is unknown. One of the Covid-19 cases didn’t have a travel history but because his daughter traveled and had flu-like symptoms, the government assumes she had Covid-19 and infected him.
In addition, Deseda said an incidence projection cannot be predicted for the island until the virus is community-spread.
“If we rely on the cases that have been received to this day, which have been confirmed as positive, that have been from people who have a travel history, we cannot specify the projection until the first homegrown cases appear,” Deseda said. “Once these cases are reported we can then analyze them to see how the circulation of this virus is.”
Deseda said that before the sixth case, reportedly a man who was treated at the Veterans Affairs Department’s main medical facility in San Juan, where the state epidemiologist said there were 26 patients, but that 10 tested negative and the results for the rest have yet to arrive.
Meanwhile, hand sanitizer, soap, alcohol and other items of personal hygiene as well as home cleaning products will be exempt from the sales and use tax (IVU by its Spanish acronym) starting Monday, until April 30. Most of these items, however, are out of stock.
At the media briefing, Soto said the Health Department has 1,000 test kits and has ordered 5,000 more. He added that the department’s secretary has orders to speed up the process of acquiring more ventilators.
The Puerto Rico Police has arrested 36 people for allegedly violating either the curfew or lockdown orders. Officers have issued 688 warnings to people about the emergency social-distancing measures.
“That means that the community is abiding by the executive order and we will continue to enforce it,” Román said.
The National Guard, meanwhile, is currently screening passengers at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
“Today, about 6,900 passengers have been screened. Six of them were directed to triage; however, they were sent home because none of them tested positive,” Román assured. “The National Guard has 200 tests available.”