Efforts must be intensified to identify the potential focus of contagion associated with the circumstances in which the woman who died, an Italian tourist, arrived in Puerto Rico. The woman came on a cruise ship on March 8, days before the government took prevention measures that came with the declaration of the state of emergency. According to estimates, 96 percent of the more than 1,400 people, including passengers and crew members, walked the streets and shops of Old San Juan, among other places that day. Another passenger with the virus who was hospitalized in the Cayman Islands and also died, there are reports on contagion on the way back to Europe.
The tourist was one of 21 positive cases in Puerto Rico, out of 235 tests reported up to yesterday. The government acknowledged there may be many more people infected and undiagnosed, even if they are asymptomatic. At least two people with the virus have been reported to participate in mass events.
We insist on the importance of rapid case detection and contact tracing by health authorities. Meanwhile, citizens must strengthen their preventive actions with responsibility and prudence.
The main recommendation for the world and our island is to stay home, especially if you have symptoms of the coronavirus. This has proven to be effective in preventing the spread, which scope on the island is still uncertain.
Puerto Rico was among the first U.S. jurisdictions to decree the partial shutdown of public and commercial operations and to announce a curfew. If the measure has altered daily life at the moment, complying with it with citizens responsibility is what can guarantee that we can soon get out of the emergency. Underestimating the contagion spread of the new strain of the coronavirus has cost countries like Italy the highest number of deaths worldwide. This Saturday, the tragic number of deaths in that country reached more than 700 in a single day.
On the other hand, it is important to follow only official sources’ information to avoid falling into collective hysteria over unfounded rumors of the emergency. Desperation blocks effective response capacity.
Unfortunately, on Saturday thousands of citizens rushed to supermarkets, after the recording of a person who claimed to have information that the government would decree a total shutdown of operations and shops went viral on social media. Both the government and the food sales and distribution sector have stressed that Puerto Rico is not expected to run out of food supplies due to the coronavirus emergency. They have all called to remain calm.
The hours set by the government provide enough time for people to buy what they need without crowding the shops. Unnecessary crowding in stores and parking lots makes it difficult for those who need to stock up on groceries to get there. Also, false rumors can lead to unnecessary hoarding that deprives others of the right to purchase food.
Every citizen, particularly those with leadership positions, can stop the virus of disinformation and the coronavirus. We must refuse to reproduce unfounded and unconfirmed versions that create panic amid the crisis with the same responsibility we take measures to prevent the infection.
Puerto Rico cannot surrender to either the coronavirus or the virus of disinformation and panic. In times of emergency, it is a civic duty to stop the spread of both, the virus and disinformation.