Everyone in Puerto Rico and that means: the government, different sectors, communities, and citizens, is called upon to comply with the health measures seeking to stop not only the spread of COVID-19 but also the human and economic losses it leaves in its wake.
With the rate of contagion above safe levels in all municipalities, every Puerto Rican, in his or her role as a family member, neighbor, public or private employee, trader or entrepreneur, has a moral duty to protect others from a virus for which there is neither a vaccine nor a cure.
The government of Puerto Rico has recognized the need to strengthen protection mechanisms that will help to avoid crowding and community contagion. And this comes after the political campaigns and primary elections that involved crowding without necessarily ensuring social distancing.
We all have the responsibility to protect ourselves while avoiding further job losses and a further collapse of the economy. The message must resonate with those under 49, whose high rate of infection is presumed to be linked to deaths from the virus among those over 60, the group with the highest mortality rates.
The government ordered the mandatory use of masks. Not complying may result in fines or prosecution. The government has also delegated to the private sector the responsibility to self-monitor its commitment to keep the State informed of their compliance with regulations.
But every citizen must understand this a very serious situation, which until Wednesday caused the loss of 356 lives. This responsibility to protect oneself and others becomes essential in the absence of a comprehensive health care strategy.
Over the next few weeks, it will be up to each citizen to avoid going out as much as possible except for essential activities, such as working, essential shopping, or going to a doctor's appointment. Businesses, workplaces, and services should take all prevention measures responsibly. Everyone should comply with the three measures that have proven effective globally: covering mouth and nose at all times with a mask, social distance of six feet or more, and washing hands with soap and water frequently.
However, faced with the serious local rise of infections, the government imposed restrictions on economic and social activities that must be complemented with a public health strategy that remains far from the level of efficiency required to manage an emergency declared more than five months ago.
Making informed decisions is key to protecting lives and stop placing the unilateral weight of pandemic control on the private sector and the workforce. The government must lead a system of molecular testing that gives people fair access to life-saving diagnostics.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nationwide lockdown orders should have served to buy governments time to prepare the public health infrastructure to face a health crisis. Although necessary to curb the rapid growth of outbreaks, the measure has had a strong social and economic impact that can be avoided this time with specific and localized strategies.
It requires mass testing to map out which areas are more prone to contagion. It is urgent to adopt aggressive actions so that the population has such an essential tool on a massive scale.
The government has federal funds to address the COVID-19 emergency. It also counts with an outstanding community of scientists and health professionals who have taken a step forward to increase testing.
The government, private sectors, and citizens must work diligently and collaboratively to stop the spread of this virus.