The continued rise of coronavirus cases and a high rate of hospitalizations could necessitate a more rigorous phase of safety measures.
SAN JUAN—Puerto Rico is one step away from reaching the highest risk level of coronavirus infection, according to the local health department.
Currently, the island is on orange alert, which means high risk of contagion, according to researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute. Red alert would be the highest risk level.
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Lorenzo González, the Puerto Rico Health Department secretary, said on Tuesday during a radio interview with NotiUno that if the number of cases continues to increase, the island could go back into lockdown.
“If we continue like this, we will reach the red alert level. That critical level [of COVID-19 cases] would lead us to lockdown or total closing,” González warned.
As of Wednesday, the local health department reported 21,156 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22,686 possible cases. The island’s death toll is 627. Of those deaths, 456 are confirmed coronavirus deaths and 171 are from symptoms similar to a COVID infection.
There are currently 364 people hospitalized, which means hospitals are at approximately 65% capacity. The Health Department reported the cases include a teenager on a ventilator in an intensive care unit since the beginning of September.
González said officials will be looking at next week’s numbers to decide on the latest safety recommendations. The government’s current directives are in effect until Oct. 2.
“At the end of next week, we will meet with scientists first, and then with economic groups, and citizens, to give the governor our recommendations regarding next steps,” González said.
The secretary’s statements drew criticism from industries such as restaurants. González responded that perhaps he might have been “slightly irresponsible” in bringing up a complete lockdown, but clarified that his comments were based on recent numbers.
“Last week we had 18 people dead on record, then 12 and 11—41 people [dead] in three days. The intensive care unit was at 66 and 67% [capacity], which qualifies as orange alert,” the secretary said in an interview with La Mega.
The measures currently in place include the reopening of enclosed spaces and businesses—such as gyms, casinos, and movie theaters—all high-risk environments according to the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC).
On Wednesday afternoon, the Puerto Rico College of Licensed Practical Nursing confirmed the seventh death of a nurse from COVID-19. She was a 64-year-old woman from the municipality of Juncos.