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 keeping with the decision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which this week eliminated the recommendation of forty that remained in force for people who come into contact with infected patients and the physical distancing guidelines.
“I understand that we do have to start making more flexible, we have to start empowering the patient with their health. The patient has to 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 older than 50, get monoclonals. In other words, we have a range of alternatives that allow us to continue living,” said the secretary.
Mellado, however, pointed out that soon the Health Department will express itself formally on the announcement that the CDC issued yesterday.
The CDC, in short, left behind the recommendation that people without up-to-date vaccinations who had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine for about five days. Instead, the new guidance proposes 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, must be respected based on the levels of transmission in each community.
In Puerto Rico, the Department of Health had already eliminated distancing mandates in public places, while maintaining a forty-14-day requirement for contacts of COVID-19 patients who do not have their vaccinations up to date.
Mellado explained that today he would hold meetings with the main epidemiological officer, Melissa Marzán, to later define the course to follow in response to the CDC guidelines.
“We will be expressing ourselves soon, analyzing 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 looks high, but if you compare it with hospitalization versus mortality (so many deaths are not reflected),” said Mellado.
“Unfortunately, those who are dying are those over 65 years of age (with) chronic diseases who do not have all their vaccines, they did not go to seek monoclonal treatment or antiviral treatment. And all this is in all pharmacies and is totally free. We continue to emphasize vaccination and, if they have COVID, early treatment,” added Mellado, who attended a Senate discussion today on alternatives to retain doctors in the country.
School emphasizes masks
For his part, 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 great deal of positivity, people are dying. I think we can be even stricter, precisely, using the mask, that is the number one protection, and that people get vaccinated. Here, there are a lot of people who have not been fully vaccinated,” said the doctor, who agreed with the Secretary of Health 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. Obviously I wouldn’t want to, but the positivity hasn’t gone down. Out of every 100 people, 30 are positive. This is not controlled,” said Díaz Vélez.