According to the Municipality of Quito, about 90% of Quito residents use a mask regularly. This data prompts epidemiologists to presume that this has prevented the virus from spreading aggressively, and even the viral load from being lower in many cases.
The growth of confirmed infections that Quito has been experiencing since the beginning of August 2020 contrasts with the number of patients who attend hospitals with symptoms related to Covid-19.
Quito confirmed 14,831 new infections between August 10 and September 22, becoming the most pronounced increase in cases in the country.
But, curiously, between those same dates care in IESS hospitals fell by 19%, from 2,857 visits in the week of August 10 to 16, to 2,316 in the week of September 14 to 21.
At the Quito Solidario temporary hospital, at the beginning of August 2020, 73 patients were treated weekly and in September the figure dropped to 21.
This reduction in patients requesting a consultation for symptoms associated with Covid-19 has been decreasing since mid-August.
Further, the average occupancy of beds that is around 85% in the hospitals of the IESS and the Ministry of Health. Although the intensive care units are still full in both systems.
This behaviour had not been observed since March 2020 when the pandemic reached Ecuador, explains the president of the IESS, Jorge Wated.
Why are there more cases and less attention?
The monitoring carried out constantly by the Municipality of Quito has determined that 90% of people use a mask when it occupies the public space in Quito.
That could be a key factor in explaining that relief in the health system.
The Director of Research of the UTE University, Daniel Simancas, points out that The reduction in medical care has two main causes:
- Greater use of the mask and compliance with biosafety regulations.
- Early medical attention.
Simancas says that the correct use of the mask prevents the virus from spreading or, at least, from entering in large quantities to the organism of people.
This means that “a person will have a lower viral load and, consequently, milder symptoms”, explains the doctor.
Furthermore, he adds that “Timely medical attention helps to prevent people’s health from deteriorating and they don’t need to go to a hospital ”. This also contributes to the reduction of attentions.
It does not mean that there are fewer infections, but that more and more patients can receive treatment at home.
The correct use of masks is key
The relief could even be better, since the same municipal monitoring shows that “Between 20% and 30% of people use the mask incorrectly”, says Mayor Jorge Yunda.
The epidemiologist Alberto Narváez points out that the “misuse of the mask creates a false sense of security in people ”and does not prevent the spread of the virus.
The professional remembers that the mask should completely cover the nose and mouth, in order to prevent droplets from being expelled when speaking, coughing or sneezing.
“The pandemic is not controlled”
The Secretary of Health of Quito, Ximena Abarca, recognized, on September 22, 2020 during the session of the Metropolitan Council, that “The pandemic in the city is not controlled.”
His statement is based on a World Health Organization principle that states that a person with Covid-19 must infect a maximum of one person.
That indicator in the city it is 1.5 people, although at the beginning of August 2020 this indicator exceeded three infections for each patient with a diagnosis.
Abarca argues that the reduction is due to the massive testing of people, since the strategy helps to identify cases early.