• The Star Staff

Health secretary warns on possible hike in COVID-19 cases amid holiday celebrations

By The Star Staff

Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano warned Wednesday that a hike in COVID-19 infections may occur during the Christmas season and the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend as families get together for festivities.

Ironically, random testing among the homeless found no positive cases of the infection, a result that was explained by the fact that homeless individuals are usually isolated.

Alluding to the fact that the island is still on an orange alert level, González Feliciano urged families to avoid having get-togethers with individuals other than those in the family nucleus on Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving is celebrated [today]. … We have made it clear that there should be no parties,” the Health chief said, “in order to reduce the possibility that an outside person could spread the virus.”

“COVID is still with us,” he said.

González Feliciano said the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving “has not died,” but insisted it is necessary that parties and celebrations remain small and within close-knit families, preferably limited to family members residing under the same roof.

He added that he does not foresee changes or more restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, a research project to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 among the homeless obtained surprising results.

Some 1,475 molecular tests for COVID-19 in vulnerable homeless populations in several island towns revealed the unexpected finding that no homeless person tested positive for the coronavirus.

“To date, in the ‘Housing and Homeless Health’ initiative, a total of 1,475 molecular tests have been conducted on homeless people, employees that provide direct service to homeless people, and people from different vulnerable populations, especially older people, people with substance abuse and behavioral health problems,” said Francisco J. Rodríguez Fraticelli, executive president of the Coalition of Coalitions for the Homeless of Puerto Rico, adding that the testing yielded negative results.

The fact that not a single homeless person tested positive for COVID-19 may have several explanations, Rodríguez Fraticelli said.

“While the general population continues to be exposed and the number of infections and deaths related to COVID-19 increases, the homeless and vulnerable populations are already isolated and marginalized as part of the rejection and discrimination they suffer due to their situation,” he said.

That rejection and marginalization has served as protection from the society that rejects them, Rodríguez Fraticelli said. The homeless have also been oriented on COVID-19 and are taking action.

“Now they are the ones who stay away from crowds of unprotected people, staying away from people when they ask for money on the streets, turning to non-profit organizations to ask for masks,” he said.

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