Coronavirus Update: First 3 Cases Confirmed in Puerto Rico as Secretary of Public Health Resigns

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By Cristy Marrero

March 14, 2020

Less than an hour after Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vázquez informed that the island was ready to test COVID-19 locally, the first three cases were confirmed as positive.

This prompted the Center for Disease Control to claim that the local health officials in charge of the cases mishandled the samples sent for testing, hence the delay.

The patients are the 68-years-old Italian tourist that arrived on a cruise ship last Sunday with pneumonia symptoms, her husband, and a 71-year-old resident, that has no recent travel history.

The enthusiasm that Rafael Rodríguez, the Secretary of Public Health showed during a press conference hours earlier while confirming that the reactive agents needed to perform the tests had arrived and were being validated, was shadowed when questioned about the late arrival of the results of these three cases. Rodríguez was visibly upset with the questions.

Meanwhile Center for Disease Control in Atlanta stated that the samples sent by Rodríguez’s team were mismanaged and inaccurate. This prompted Vázquez to ask for his immediate resignation as public health secretary, CBS Correspondent, David Begnaud reported on a tweet. Begnaud called the CDC earlier and asked about the status of the tests sent from Puerto Rico. A thread of claims between the local government and the CDC started after that phone call.

Rodríguez’s resignation came as a surprise to many, but the CDC issued a statement clarifying the samples sent to them for testing weren’t accurate.

Vázquez later confirmed that the island was ready to do the tests locally, and less than an hour confirmed the first three positive cases, during a press conference.

“You know because you have seen it reported in the international news, that the coronavirus situation has impacted everyone. The things that seemed normal to us until today are no longer normal. It is my priority that this situation does not spread, therefore it is time to make more conclusive decisions so that the virus does not spread“, said Vázquez.

The governor announced the closure of all public schools, starting on March 16th until the 30th. Also, all public gatherings and the arrival of all cruise ships have been officially canceled. It is unclear what the protocol will be for the three cruise ships expected to arrive San Juan on Sunday morning.

There have been 14 more suspicious cases confirmed since last Sunday when the first case was made public. A Panamanian physician that spent last weekend on the island to attend The Salsa National Day, which welcomes thousands of people from all over the world every year, has also tested positive to Coronavirus.

On Wednesday, a young man from Ponce that spent time with the Panamanian physician started to feel ill. It has also been reported that a Canadian woman tested positive after being on a cruise ship that came to Puerto Rico in the first week of March.

Read more about the Coronavirus situation on the island here.



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