The New Year in Puerto Rico begins with an unpromising scenario after the island saw a critical increase in cases of COVID-19.
As reported by the New York Times, at one point this week, the daily case count had surpassed 11,000, a very high number for an island with a population of 3.2 million. In sum, Puerto Rico has seen a 4,600% increase in cases, despite having one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the region.
State and local health agencies point out that one of the most important superspreaders of the wave of cases was the Bad Bunny concert, which, together with a series of corporate events, company parties, and the consequent family gatherings for Christmas, drove the massive increase in cases on the island.
According to data shared by Rafael Irizarry, a statistician at Harvard University, one-third of the coronavirus cases the island has recorded since the pandemic’s start occurred in the last month. The number of cases per 100,000 residents soared to 225, up from three in three weeks.
Sobre 100,000 casos detectados en diciembre 2021.
Un tercio (33%) de todos los casos detectados en Puerto Rico durante toda la pandemia han sido en este último mes. pic.twitter.com/2oqyeLS8m4
— Rafael Irizarry (@rafalab) December 30, 2021
Although the Omicron variant has not reported an increase in the number of hospitalizations in the vaccinated population, in Puerto Rico, those numbers also doubled. According to Irizarry, vaccination is no longer as significant in the face of the new and highly contagious variant.
The low hospitalization rate is mainly due to the fact that currently most cases are in the 20-39 age group. To appreciate the power of the vaccines, consider that Puerto Rico is observing 800 cases per 100K per day among the unvaccinated, but only 100 among those with boosters. https://t.co/l84rJvvGwE pic.twitter.com/6BKiL6jBQ2
— Rafael Irizarry (@rafalab) January 3, 2022
In Puerto Rico, nearly 85% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 75% have received both vaccines. However, most Puerto Ricans have passed the six-month limit, after which the vaccine’s effectiveness begins to diminish. Still, at least 40% have not yet received the booster shots.
Faced with the new wave of cases, Governor Pedro Pierluisi announced a series of executive orders to curb the accelerated transmission of the virus in Puerto Rico. The decree that goes into effect this Tuesday includes a limitation on the hours of all private operations that serve the public, a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the early morning hours, a ban on all mass activities of more than 250 people, and fines for non-compliance.