(El Nuevo Día)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases confirmed in jurisdictions close to Puerto Rico, some of which are home to large Puerto Rican populations or with interaction with our island, make it necessary to strengthen local response strategies to this health challenge, in coordination with these areas were infections were detected.

The urgency of well-coordinated efforts between the government of Puerto Rico, U.S. health authorities, and the governments of the states with the highest movement to the island is clear. Coordinated strategies to implement prevention protocols should be extended to the neighboring Caribbean islands.

Following coronavirus cases confirmed in St. Martin, St. Bartholomew, the Dominican Republic, as well as in the states of Florida and New York, it is necessary that the Puerto Rican government works on additional prevention efforts. In this new scenario, educational initiatives are essential so that people have information on prevention measures and on what to do in case of suspicious symptoms.

Puerto Rican authorities have to calmly move the island towards prevention. In this way, health measures can be successfully implemented, under the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The local government has informed it´s willing to implement protocols designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the face of the threat of COVID-19. This includes the implementation, since last weekend, of prevention regulations linked to passenger movement. Flights from the Dominican Republic will not arrive in Ponce or Aguadilla but at the Luis Muñoz Marín airport, which has special measures for passengers and crew.

It is up to all Puerto Rican sectors with government, commercial or tourist relations with countries like the Dominican Republic, which on Sunday confirmed its first COVID 19 case, to establish communication channels that will facilitate the implementation of prevention protocols.

Health measures to identify suspicious cases and protect the health of response workers are a priority. The same should apply to movement to and from the U.S., particularly those states with the highest movement to Puerto Rico, such as New York and Florida, where most of the Puerto Rican diaspora lives.

Six deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the United States. There are at least 91 confirmed cases in 10 states. Worldwide, patients diagnosed with COVID-19 total 88,000. The WHO has recorded more than 3,000 deaths.

In Puerto Rico, citizens´ concerns suggest special measures to care for patients with coronavirus-like symptoms. This would include indicating whether they have recently traveled abroad and seeking additional medical assistance, in case they test negative for respiratory illnesses with COVID-19-like symptoms.

Health workers expressed that, beyond basic guidelines for handling blood samples and for detecting other viruses, they lacked official information to apply specific measures to the new strain of coronavirus for which there is no vaccine. Tests taken in Puerto Rico are referred to the United States for processing.

Authorities are called upon to ensure the availability of a response with hospital isolation areas. The Health Department is responsible for speeding up efforts to access resources to properly address an eventual epidemic.

Clear communication with the different components of the public and private health sectors will allow us to accurately define the broad response to the serious health challenge of prevention and the potential management of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.

A comprehensive implementation of health measures, which should include basic practices such as regular hand washing, are steps that cannot be postponed in order to forge a shield to protect Puerto Rico from potentially lethal infections such as the coronavirus.

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