Now that we are entering the second week of the gradual economic reopening, the government's estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to abate in Puerto Rico should motivate to strengthen prevention measures to avoid a new outbreak.
The incubation period of the coronavirus can last up to fourteen days, a fact that calls to avoid overconfidence while carefully resuming productive activities. Controlling new outbreaks of the pandemic allows to continue with the gradual reopening of activities that ensure income for thousands of families.
Health authorities throughout the world have warned that easing individual protection measures and health strategies for diagnosis and case isolation with contact tracing carries a high potential for second waves of contagion.
Given these projections, the government must continue to adjust its response, particularly in the administration of molecular tests and positive cases contact tracing. The priority is to prevent the spread and deaths and to be able to keep the economy afloat.
The current executive order states that if we manage to keep the contagion curve flat, more productive activities -which are necessary to mitigate the economic crisis that the pandemic has triggered on the island- will be resumed.
According to the government, as of Friday, 107 people had lost their lives from the new strain of the coronavirus and there were 2,156 positive cases. We offer our solidarity to the families of the victims, and to health personnel who remain on alert for the pandemic.
Of the positive results reported by the government, just over half were serological tests, the so-called rapid tests on which the government has focused its strategy. Of 411,500 tests purchased by the agency, only 50,000 - 12 percent - are molecular tests.
The scientific community in general, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in particular, recommended using molecular tests because serological tests are not diagnostic ones and therefore, more likely to result in false positive or negative readings. These recommendations should be considered. The federal government allocated funds to expand testings and these funds should be used efficiently.
The call for the government to be more transparent about the data associated with the coronavirus and the health response, particularly regarding testing and contact tracing, must also be addressed. The government of Villalba, which has its own epidemiological model and developed an effective tracing system, reported that infections in this municipality exceed those reported by the Health Department. Earlier this week, they had identified 14 infections. As of Friday, the Health Department's digital system registered the number of positive cases in that municipality at seven.
Experts point out other issues. For example, data from pending testing have not been updated for several days. They also insist that Puerto Rico needs to mass test, especially in areas with more incidence, and to expand up to 40 percent contact tracing processes to control local outbreaks.
Meanwhile, adaptation to the new measures imposed by the virus must continue. By the end of last week, the World Health Organization warned that "we may have to have a significant alteration to our lifestyles until we get to a point where we have an effective vaccine or an effective treatment."
It is up to all of us to follow the official guidelines, avoiding going out without a real reason. Likewise, it is up to employees and employers to maintain the highest standards of protection that will allow us to return to a healthy Puerto Rico and to boost a strengthened economy.