Health official confirms ‘sustained, but low-level’ rise in COVID-19 cases

Suggests vaccine ‘is the best barrier’ against coronavirus; Health secretary reiterates call for islanders to mask up

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

The island Department of Health’s main epidemiology officer announced Thursday that Puerto Rico is facing a “sustained, but low-level increase” in confirmed COVID-19 cases, which prompted official calls for citizens to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

During a press conference held in Guillermo Arbona Hall at the agency’s headquarters in San Juan, Jorge Becerra, who appeared along with Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López and Main Medical Officer Iris Cardona Gerena, said that as the agency keeps oversight every day on the public health emergency, the data provided since last week has established a “sustained change of trend in the positivity rate.”

During the press conference, Becerra reported that the island currently has a 4% positivity rate.

Five days ago, the positivity rate was at 2.4%.

Becerra also noted that an increase in the coronavirus relapse rate is taking place, but remains at low levels.

He noted that the event, while it may generate concern, would not escalate to a major spike in positive cases “because we have a vaccinated population.”

“The [coronavirus] vaccine is the best remedy, the vaccine is our barrier,” the chief epidemiology officer said. “The vaccine is still effective with the Delta variant, too.”

Meanwhile, Mellado López suggested that island residents continue using their face masks amid the uptick so that the government does not find it necessary to return to tighter restrictions in a new executive order.

“We urge all indoor businesses to require the use of face masks,” he said.

He added that the department continues to call on citizens “to get empowered and get vaccinated.”

Cardona Gerena said at press time that 3.7 million vaccines had been administered in Puerto Rico, with 2.6 million of the eligible population having received at least one vaccine dose, and 1.769 million who have completed the vaccination series.

“This means that 63% of the entire population has at least one vaccine, while 55% have the complete vaccination series,” she said.

When asked how many vaccinated residents have passed away due to COVID-19, she said “.001% of total vaccinated individuals, which means that 18 vaccinated people have passed away.”

She noted that the cases were all elderly people at least 60 years old, and all had predisposing conditions.

At press time, data retrieved from the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition confirmed that the coronavirus positivity rate was at 4%.

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