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Local ‘external clinical procedures’ result in 50% fewer COVID hospitalizations


PR Hospitals Assn. president: Most recent coronavirus cases are asymptomatic young people


By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star


After Puerto Rico faced a record number of 657 COVID-19 hospitalizations in December, the island Health Department on Wednesday reported 331 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, which represents a 50% reduction during January.


Puerto Rico Hospitals Association President Jaime Plá told the STAR on Wednesday that factors such as the medical field having more information on SARS-CoV-2, external clinic treatments, and unexpected cooperation from citizens looking to remain safe have led to the decrease.


“We, in Puerto Rico, are conducting external clinical procedures where we give patients a set of instructions and determine at an early stage if they’re candidates for the procedure,” Plá said, referring to the monoclonal antibody treatment, which consists of an intravenous therapy that tackles mild symptoms in patients who have been detected with the coronavirus early to prevent further medical procedures.


The Hospitals Association president said another reason for the drop in COVID hospital cases is that many new positive coronavirus cases are among island youth, most of them being asymptomatic and not requiring any medical treatment.


“Now, independent of the positive coronavirus cases in Puerto Rico, which remain at a high level, the reality is that, apparently, people did not behave so disorderly [during the] Christmas [holidays] and that meant that we did not have a greater number of cases that could have consequences for the elderly, which are the people who end up going to the hospital,” Plá said.


When the STAR asked if the number of positive COVID-19 cases that the Health Department has reported recently would lead to a spike in hospitalizations, Plá said that even though the trend has remained at a low rate, an increase in hospitalizations could still be possible.


As for the more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant, lineage B.1.1.7, causing more hospitalizations in Puerto Rico, he said “even though it is not a factor that has shown an effect on us yet, we must keep an eye on it.”


“If you notice in the coronavirus death rates, deaths have also declined [in January]; no casualties were reported in the past two days, until today [Wednesday], when the [Health] Department reported 14 additional deaths,” Plá said. “With all the issues we have been facing and the criticism that was raised earlier, I consider that we’re handling the matter effectively, which surpasses by a lot what the United States is facing, where COVID has spun out of control.”


“I’m seeing more people with their face masks on; I consider that there’s a genuine concern by people about washing their hands frequently and maintaining physical distance, and public places that I have visited are being reasonably rigorous,” Plá added. “I think there’s a discipline that must be recognized, let people know and congratulate them for [continuing to] practice [the guidelines].”


At press time Wednesday, the island Health Department had reported 121 confirmed, 27 probable, and 134 suspicious coronavirus cases. The agency also reported a total of 82,378 confirmed cases and 73,760 convalescent patients. Meanwhile, deaths due to COVID-19 stood at 1,717.

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