(El Nuevo Día)

One in five Americans is in social isolation after the California and New York governments ordered to stop non-essential services.

This fact dramatizes the severe emergency the United States recognized in the face of global ravages caused by the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.

Almost three months after the discovery of COVID-19 and its high contagion rate, the federal government decided to close its borders with Canada and Mexico. In the meantime, it keeps the ban on flights from Europe and China, among other countries.

These measures are a response to the worrying escalation in the number of cases detected. The lack of case-control is partly associated with federal political authorities recognizing late the threat posed by the virus.

By press time, the United States had reached more than 15,000 cases, with more than 7,000 concentrated in New York. The number of deaths in the nation exceeded 200 yesterday. In California, the government estimated that 56 percent of its 40 million inhabitants will contract the virus.

Florida, which, as in New York, has a large Puerto Rican community, had more than 500 cases. Our sensitivity also embraces our brothers and sisters in our extended homeland. We know that, for Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, facing this emergency far from their families brings more anxiety and nostalgia. Used to physical and family contact so typical of Latinos, this period forces us to re-dimension our expressions of affection and gratitude. But it is imperative to stick to the discipline of staying home as the best alternative to protect oneself and others.

These measures are now more urgent given the delay in providing the health community with virus testing until recently. Puerto Rico has also faced some of these difficulties. To date, the government has conducted about 100 tests, of which 14 have already been identified as positive, since the first case was reported on 13 March.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they are taking steps to have steps between 25 to 35 percent of hospital beds available. The rapid rise in confirmed cases is expected to put pressure on hospital capacity in that state.

The United States and the rest of the Americas should look at the mirror that is Italy, which, despite being the first country to ban flights from China, and with the smallest population, has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world. Estimates about the explosion of cases there point to underestimating a case not treated as suspicious because there were no clear links of the man with China.

In this situation, it is up to the United States to assume the leadership it´s has shown for decades. So far, prevention measures have fallen on state governments, with different levels of proactivity. The sooner the actions to mitigate the spread of the virus are standardized, the greater the chances of containing the pandemic.

This emergency must be addressed with the same attention that Democrats and Republicans showed to agree on a package of financial relief for workers and industries.

Public and private institutions, as well as each citizen, have a duty to prioritize life. This call also applies to the younger generations who must protect themselves equally, for their benefit and that of the elderly.

As the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, said on Friday: "COVID-19 is taking so much from us. But it’s also giving us something special – the opportunity to come together as one humanity – to work together, to learn together, to grow together”.

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