Thousands could die from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico

Government and public health experts at the highest levels have known this for days, but nobody wants to say it openly: thousands could die from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico. So far, the projections that the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) has learned from experts are overwhelming. The most conservative suggests that some 16,000 deaths could be registered during the pandemic on the island; the worst case scenario approaches 58,000 victims.

The CPI asked health demographer Raúl Figueroa to calculate the number of possible deaths, based on the contagion estimates that the Government of Puerto Rico has disclosed, as well as the fatality rates published by countries that lead the way in the pandemic, and the local case-fatality rate that the few tests done to date show. The first test was done on March 8. According to Figueroa’s calculations, if Puerto Rico approaches the global average mortality rate — which to date is 4.4% — 27,000 people would die in about 12 to 18 months.

Millions of Health Department Funds Channeled to Contractors Linked to ex Governor Campaign Strategists

The wave of corruption that characterized the Ricardo Rosselló-Nevares administration had among its enablers the now outgoing Secretary of Health, Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado, an investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) reveals. Amid the emergency and deaths related to Hurricane María, a decisive meeting took place at the Government of Puerto Rico’s Emergency Operations Center (COE, in Spanish). Elías Sánchez, lobbyist and former governor Rosselló’s ex-campaign director was present. The meeting, held Oct. 2, 2017, two weeks after the storm, was the first sweeping encounter among Government of Puerto Rico cabinet secretaries and federal government response officials.

Health Department adrift in the midst of the pandemic

Ten days after the Government of Puerto Rico began to take the coronavirus seriously, Puerto Ricans are in the midst of the deadly pandemic without a Health Department to count on. With no public health expert in charge of the decisions on which the lives of 3.2 million people who live on this island depend. The Health Department has no data, no projections that allow for coherent   planning and response, no communications manager with expertise or experience in public health education, and no large-scale educational campaign despite the many millions spent on advertising superfluous matters. Former Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado, who had previously mishandled the emergencies created by Hurricane María in 2017 and the earthquakes between December 2019 and January 2020, “resigned” on Friday, Mar. 13, the day the first positive COVID-19 case in Puerto Rico was confirmed.

Facing the risk of new earthquakes, Puerto Rico lacks a coordinated massive response plan for trauma emergencies

The greatest immediate death threat after earthquakes, such as those Puerto Rico has experienced for more than two weeks, are traumas that people may be exposed to in the face of a structural collapse. But Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado has not shared a plan to address this risk nor has contacted his specialized trauma team since the earthquakes began, dangerously exposing the public. So far, the director of the only trauma center on the island, the Medical Center’s Trauma Hospital, and president of the Puerto Rico Trauma Committee before the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Pablo Rodríguez-Ortiz, has not been contacted by Rodríguez-Mercado neither before nor during the emergency that has already claimed two lives, has downed dozens of structures, resulting in more than 2,000 evacuees. Rodríguez-Mercado has not shared the current written plan —the Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Management Operational Plan — with his Trauma director, nor has he addressed the hospital’s structural deficiencies, according to internal sources and documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish). The 1,048-page plan only mentions the Trauma Hospital once and makes brief mentions about the Medical Center’s role in an emergency such as an earthquake.