• The San Juan Daily Star

New format for publishing COVID data related to schools under development

By John McPhaul

The island’s chief epidemiological officer, Melissa Marzán, said Thursday that her office is working on a new format for publishing data related to COVID-19 and schools.

“It is my interest and that of the [Health] secretary that the public be informed. It is for that reason that we are working on a new template in order to publish the data in the correct and clear epidemiological context,” Marzán said in a written statement. “What we seek is to inform in the appropriate context. Raw data by themselves can lead to an incorrect interpretation.”

The official noted that currently the school staff associated with the BioPortal collects and presents information that contains three variables: a person with a positive test for COVID-19, a person who has been identified as a contact and a person associated with an off-island trip. This is information that does not necessarily translate to people or students diagnosed with COVID-19, who are attending or have attended school campuses, Marzán said.

A person who tests positive for COVID-19 can have one of three tests, and can even have more than one positive test. The Bioportal collects information from molecular, antigen and serological tests. A “close contact,” meanwhile, is one that has shared with a positive case for COVID-19 for an accumulated period of 15 minutes or more, in 24 hours, at a distance of less than six feet. This does not mean that the person is positive for the virus. A person associated with trips includes those who are not vaccinated and those who do not present proof upon arrival in Puerto Rico, the chief epidemiologist said.

For his part, Scientific Coalition President Daniel Colón agreed that the data should be presented in a way that can be properly interpreted so that it does not cause confusion.

“It is important to note that a case of exposure, whether due to a trip or the presence of a positive person in a family nucleus, is not equivalent to an infection in a school,” Colón said. “The BioPortal is designed to capture these potential exposures and prevent the possibility of contagion in schools. We do not want people to be confused and interpret that the identified cases, which have occurred outside the schools, are ‘cases or contacts’ that occurred within a school campus.”

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