On Monday, 204 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Puerto Rico after the long weekend, the highest number in the past three months. The first case in a long-term elderly care facility also surfaced.
SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico Health Department reported on Monday the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases registered in the past three months.
The report tallied 225 new confirmed cases, including 204 new cases and 21 from previous tests performed between March and June. The report mentioned 444 new “probable” cases. This number of probable cases is an increase from the 333 reported previously.
The island now has 2,071 confirmed cases and 6,514 probable cases. The death toll is 155. Of those deaths, 60 are confirmed coronavirus deaths, and 95 are deaths by symptoms similar to COVID-19 infection.
Puerto Rico Health Department Secretary Lorenzo González admitted during an interview with WKAQ-AM that the rise in cases is cause for concern.
“These are possibly the highest numbers reported in the past three months. This is a cause for concern. The newly confirmed cases could infect people with compromised conditions, such as the elderly. This may be the biggest problem,” González said during the interview.
The secretary confirmed 115 people were hospitalized on Monday, three less as compared to Sunday. Of those patients, 15 are in intensive care and 10 need help with breathing by using ventilators.
The health department also confirmed on Monday it is investigating the first case of COVID-19 in a long-term care center for the elderly. Epidemiologist Idania Rodríguez told Primera Hora the department is currently evaluating other possible cases.
Rodríguez said the health department is evaluating if the patient was infected by an employee, or by a medical professional who regularly visits to provide services.
The epidemiologist explained that testing has been performed in only 162 of the 850 long-term care centers licensed by the Puerto Rico Department of Family Affairs. This represents 19% of the total number of centers.
Last weekend, during the July 4 holiday, beaches, malls, and restaurants were crowded. Videos on social media documented how there were people gathered without masks on the beach.
Juan Carlos Reyes, epidemiologist, and member of the local coronavirus Medical Task Force said in an interview with WSKN-AM that the reopening of the island happened too soon after the coronavirus emergency which started in mid-March. Many businesses reopened almost three weeks ago.
“I understand that the reopening was hasty. We in the task force had specified which spaces were not recommended for reopening,” said Reyes.
The epidemiologist reminisced how the task force did not support the reopening of movie theaters, restaurants, and churches.
Reyes said the increase in cases had been noticed prior to this past weekend. An average of 27 cases was reported daily, Reyes specified.
“As of today, the number has exploded to approximately 200 cases. Clearly, we are having another spike. After the scenario this weekend, we will see more changes in about a week and a half,” he said.
Daniel Colón-Ramos, professor of cellular neuroscience at Yale University, said the situation is worrisome, as this is the most significant uptick in numbers since the lockdown started on May 16. He argues that instead of a spike, this could be considered an upward trajectory in numbers.
Scientist Danilo Pérez Rivera, from the Puerto Rico Coalición de Sabiduría Coronavirus (COSACO by its Spanish initials), coincides with Colón-Ramos’ approach. As he sees it, the island is having real pandemic activity at the moment, on a trajectory for a second spike.
“This is just the beginning. The July 4 holiday just ended. People could have been affected this weekend by those who may have been infected before and are finding out now. The panorama for the island is not good,” Pérez warned.