Santa Cruz reported significantly fewer COVID-19 cases during the last week of January. What explains this behavior? It’s not because they are a different race, but because at the beginning of the year, the canton’s Health Area strengthened follow-up on positive cases and their possible direct contacts to prevent more people in the area from becoming infected with the virus.
The more timely management made the canton go from an average of six positive cases for every 10 virus diagnostic tests in December, to two or three cases at the end of January. This was reported by the canton’s epidemiological surveillance coordinator, Luis Alonso Matarrita.
The biggest change is that Health Area staff call people in isolation about their condition at least once a day. In addition, they ask infected people to give them a list of those with whom they had contact during the days before testing positive. Subsequently, Health officials contact these people to ask them about possible symptoms and, if necessary, they ask them to go to the health center to get tested.
Before January, health personnel recommended that infected people alert recent contacts about their positive result but they didn’t follow up on each of them.
The coordinator explained that with the new way of working, they track people with the virus that they wouldn’t otherwise locate.
We’ve known cases of people who have strong symptoms of the illness but who are afraid to go to the hospital because we would give them an isolation order and they’d have to be shut in for 15 days. That puts the entire canton at risk,” he emphasized.
The Health Area had tracked several cases of COVID-19 that could have joined the crowds at the Santa Cruz fiestas, but they didn’t do so because they had received health orders days before the event. The epidemiologist explained that if this way of handling cases hadn’t changed, the scenario in the canton would be different.
The Santa Cruz Health Area is also providing specialized care to patients with “COVID factors,” which means everyone with conditions like chronic diseases, obesity or old age, which makes them more vulnerable to the virus. Constantly monitoring these conditions lowers the risk that the patient’s condition will worsen if they get the virus.
Matarrita indicated that another factor that influenced the drop in cases, not only in Santa Cruz but in the country, was the change in vehicle restrictions issued at the beginning of the year. The measures discouraged people from going places unnecessarily.
Pandemic peaks in Santa Cruz
According to Ministry of Health statistics, Santa Cruz had a peak in cases in December of last year. The folkloric city reported 476 cases in that month, most of which were concentrated in the central district, Tempate and Tamarindo.
Matarrita stated that the increase in cases occurred in work environments and that many cases were detected because the companies themselves screened their workers.
That gave Health Area personnel a kind of “vision”: the cases aren’t going to come to the Health Area, so the Health Area has to go to them. Therefore they changed the monitoring strategy.
As of December 11, Santa Cruz reported 43 cases in a single day. Four days later, the Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Commission (CNE) raised the canton to orange alert. This meant that there was a high risk of infection in the area.
The folkloric city went down to yellow alert just 15 days later (on December 29). Since then, the highest number of cases reported in one day was on January 16 with 28 cases, but throughout that month, the number of infections was lower. In the first month of the year, the canton reported an average of eight cases a day, half of those reported in December.
Santa Cruz’s highest peak occurred in October last year, when 600 cases were reported in less than a week due to an outbreak of the virus in Las Catalinas.
As of February 2, Santa Cruz reported 381 active cases, the lowest number since October 24. Even so, the health coordinator doesn’t rule out the possibility of an increase in cases in future weeks.
What we observe is that [COVID-19] has a wave behavior. Right now, a wave has probably already passed, but that doesn’t rule out that a second or third wave will hit stronger and we’ll have more cases. So we avoid that by following the recommendations,” he emphasized.
Matarrita reiterated the recommendations of hand washing, social distancing, avoiding attending social events and in case of showing symptoms of the illness, immediately going to the nearest health center.