As of June 25, Nicoya reports 47 active cases of COVID-19, making it the canton with the most reported cases in all of Guanacaste and the ninth with the most infected nationally. Even so, the Ministry of Health does not consider that there is a danger of community transmission and affirms that the situation in the area is under control.
That is what Health Minister Daniel Salas said during the conference on Monday, June 22:
“We are evaluating where the cases are, how the cases occurred, the places where the patient has been since the moment they acquired the virus until their case is confirmed. [ In Nicoya] there is adequate contention, we don’t need to go to an orange alert,” Salas said.
In Nicoya, as of June 24, the Health Areas have performed about 192 tests since the beginning of the new wave, according to the Chief of the Health Areas of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), Guiselle Guzmán.
“We don’t do massive tests, but focused tests. They can be to those people who had contact with the patients who are already positive or to rumors that reach us via anonymous reports,” the chief explained.
The Ministry of Health assures that it keeps the number of samples in Nicoya up to date. That is to say, they have the capacity to go and test suspicious cases in less than 24 hours, since their teams are not saturated.
Luis Carlos Villalobos, head of the Nicoya Health Department, told La Voz de Guanacaste that all the epidemiological links between the cases have been detected quickly and most of them are people who live in the same home and did not visit public places during the incubation period.
“This is not the origin of [native cases] in Nicoyas, but people with the disease from other towns who visited relatives in the region,” confirmed Villalobos.
That differentiates it from the first four cases reported for the first time on March 26, all of which have been recovered. These were two workers from La Anexión Hospital who acquired the virus abroad and infected one more person each.
By April 24, almost a month later, there were no more active cases in the municipality.
On June 3, the Ministry of Health announced three new cases in Nicoya. According to the authorities, they were part of the same cluster.
The epidemiological investigation located and tested all people who came into contact with the cases, regardless of whether they presented any symptoms.
Dr. Guzmán said that another characteristic of Nicoya is that more than 90% of the active cases are living with the illness with mild or very mild symptoms, so there is currently no saturation of hospital resources. For that same reason, she says, it is necessary to test contacts who do not have symptoms.
For example, on 12 June the regional branch of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) had closed its facilities after one of its staff members had tested positive for covid and had had contact with 33 people in the office.
According to the OIJ, the Ministry of Health tested all 33 staff members and their closest contacts. To date, seven people have been infected from the cluster and 26 others were released from mandatory isolation on 25 June.
The cases, says Villalobos, are distributed among several districts of the canton, but he said the location is not relevant because they are all isolated in their homes.
“Regardless of where each case is, the protective measures have to be the same. It’s not like the virus goes through walls,” he said.
Nicoya institutions maintain unity
The mayor of the municipality of Nicoya, Carlos Armando Martinez, indicated that in the face of the new wave of contagion, all the institutions of Nicoya have been working hand in hand to mitigate the crisis.
“Something that has been very important is the rapid action of the canton’s Health Board. It is a job that would not be achieved if it were not done together,” said the mayor.
Part of this work is also to analyze each case and manage the necessary measures so that people can correctly follow their health orders.
Through the National Emergency Commission (CNE) project, “Con Vos Podemos” (With You We Can), the municipality provides weekly food packages to people who are infected and cannot go out to work, and others who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The local committee of the municipality analyzes factors such as labor income and housing conditions.
In total, from April to date they have provided at least 3,259 packages.
Martinez also reported that the municipality is proposing the idea of creating shelters for covid patients who do not have adequate space for isolation. The project is still in the committee’s process.
The mayor agrees with Dr. Guzman that Nicoya’s current epidemiological conditions are not an excuse to reduce care measures for the virus.
“[People] have to follow the protocols: social distancing, use of mask, virtual meetings, vehicle restriction, because that has been one of the main weapons against the spread of the virus in the canton,” Martínez said.