Puerto Rico imposes new restrictions after rapid spike in COVID-19 cases


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Puerto Rico imposes new restrictions after rapid spike in COVID-19 cases
New restrictions took effect Tuesday after a series of events and public gatherings were attributed to helping cause a rapid spike in coronavirus cases on the Caribbean island. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 4 (UPI) — Puerto Rico is facing a massive spike in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates as the Omicron variant spreads through the U.S. territory.

The positivity rate, or the percentage of molecular tests that have come back positive for infection, has doubled in just two weeks — from 17.5% on Dec. 21 to 32.36% on Jan. 2, according to data from Puerto Rico’s coronavirus dashboard.

Those numbers are way up from just months ago, when the island’s successful vaccination drive led positivity rates to drop to 1.85% — which was among the territory’s lowest rates during the pandemic.

Despite data indicating that Omicron has less serious effects than previous variants, hospitalizations and intensive-care unit placements have also spiked and overwhelmed health workers on the island of 3.3 million.

Sunday, there were more than 400 hospitalizations and 50 intensive-care placements amid a seven-day average of 378.6 hospitalizations, according to Puerto Rico’s health data. Just weeks earlier, on Nov. 29, there were only three dozen hospitalizations and three people in the ICU.

To date, the island has seen a total of 3,314 deaths, the data show. Mortality rates per 100,000 residents stood at 0.28% on Sunday — much lower than the peak of 4.2% at the end of 2020.

Though most deaths have occurred in patients over the age of 70, there have been nine deaths of patients under the age of 20 since the pandemic began.

Recreation and Sports Secretary Ray Quinones Vazquez said Monday that Puerto Rico would enforce new measures to combat the surge in cases.

Mandatory private business closures between midnight and 5 a.m. took effect on Tuesday. The requirement will last until at least Jan. 18.

Alcohol is not allowed to be served during those hours and gatherings will be limited to crowds of no more than 250 people. Bars and restaurants have also been ordered to limit their capacities to 50% for indoor dining and 75% for outdoor dining, and restaurant employees must receive booster shots by Jan. 15.

The new rules come after a series of events and public gatherings have been attributed to helping cause the spike in coronavirus cases.

According to The New York Times, 2,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 after Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny held a concert attended by 60,000 people.

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