‘We are all competing for the same product’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Following President Joe Biden’s announcement that roughly 100 million federal workers and contractors are being called on to vaccinate against COVID-19, which also envisions a sweeping expansion of at-home testing, a Scientific Coalition member noted on Monday that Puerto Rico residents could face challenges purchasing antigen tests if coronavirus cases continue to surge in the mainland U.S.
Puerto Rico Physicians & Surgeons Association (CMCPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Ramos told the STAR that although the Health Department signed an agreement with Abbott to receive 20,000 antigen tests per week and no COVID-19 patients have been denied any treatment due to supply shortages, the island has to compete against other U.S. jurisdictions for access to resources that are limited due to the pandemic.
“Whether it is vaccines, tests, or treatments, we are all competing for the same product,” he said. “At some point, we could face this challenge; however, we have been able to manage.”
Meanwhile, with Puerto Rico becoming the third-most vaccinated U.S. jurisdiction against COVID-19, and experiencing a slow reduction in coronavirus cases despite the presence of the delta variant, Ramos urged residents on Monday to continue taking every measure available, including the vaccination, to keep reducing the island’s positivity rate.
His statement came with the Health Department reporting five COVID-19 deaths on Monday, taking Puerto Rico’s total past 3,000 to 3,003 since the pandemic began.
“If we put them into perspective, it’s more than the number of people who died during the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers [from the World Trade Center in New York], something we commemorated last Saturday,” Ramos said. “You have to take into account, where we started from; in the United States, there have been 700,000 COVID deaths, let’s consider that we are 1% of the population, if we did things as bad as they did, there should have been 7,000 COVID deaths.”
“This is coming from a place where the healthcare system is privatized, fragmented, weak, with workers with low morale, with less Medicare and Medicaid funding, unlike other countries,” the pediatrician added. “Aside from all these challenges, we joined forces along with the governors, the agency chiefs in charge during the pandemic, the Health Department personnel, the private sector, hospitals, medical offices, laboratories and drugstores, among others.”
He added that “for the common welfare, it [public health restrictions imposed via executive order] was accepted even though there was always resistance to it.”
“We would have liked to see no deaths, but we have to compare ourselves with others,” Ramos said.
At press time, 354 people were hospitalized for COVID-19; 335 were adults and 19 were minors.
The report also indicated that there are 223 positive cases of COVID-19 as a result of molecular tests and 116 probable cases after an antigen test.
Likewise, 2,404,982 people have had at least one dose of a vaccine. Another 2,102,361 people have completed their series of doses.
According to the Harvard University COVID-19 dashboard, at press time, Puerto Rico had a 6.6% case positivity rate based on molecular tests. In order for the island to be at a low positivity rate, case positivity must fall to 3%.