The 3,028 people who have died from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, as of press time, and those who will die before the pandemic ends – will have an impact on demographics of changing life expectancy on the island and in the rest of the world.
Demographer Raúl Figueroa explained that life expectancy was already reduced in the United States by several years due to deaths caused by COVID-19.
In Puerto Rico, he indicated, the Department of Health has not updated the life expectancy age of 79 as the average age that Puerto Ricans live, but he did not rule out that life expectancy will eventually be updated.
“Right now, COVID-19 is among the top five causes of death. Since most of the people who are dying are older people, it is not going to have such a strong effect on the future of the population or the workforce. But yes, obviously, there are many of those deaths that could be prevented, but they did happen,” he said. “Now, a little younger people are dying - who are the unvaccinated - and there we are going to have a greater effect on life expectancy.
Of the more than 3,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, at least 946 — an estimated 31 percent of the deceased — were over 80 years of age. The Health Department has reported at least 783 people killed by COVID-19 between the ages of 70 to 79 years, and another 576 deaths between 60 and 69 years of age. An estimated 14 percent of the deceased are between 50 and 59 years old and another 6 percent are between 40 and 49 years old.
“Since 2011, Health has not updated the age of 79 as the life expectancy. There may be an effect in lowering the expectation. In the United States we have already seen that life expectancy fell. They divide it by race and have already lowered it for two or three years,” he said, indicating that the number may go up after the pandemic ends and health situations return to “normal.”
Figueroa pointed out that another factor in the number of deaths is that many people stopped going to hospitals and medical appointments for fear of contagion, which caused some deaths that could have been prevented.
“In Puerto Rico, people die of chronic and degenerative diseases. This (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that is among the leading causes of death and you have to work hard so that this does not happen because this is going to last for several years and you have to work so that people understand that this is going to last a few years, “ he warned.
Hope the Numbers Go Down
Marcos López Casillas, research manager for the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, said that if the measures that have been taken on the island do not change, the COVID-19 numbers should continue to decrease. Although days with deaths in the double digits could be reported, his expectation is that these numbers will start to decline again. The positivity rate of the coronavirus, which had already exceeded 11 percent on the island, is now at 7.1 percent, according to government figures.
“It is a relatively high positivity [rate], but we have been going down because we were at 11 percent. As we have cases in the vulnerable population - which is those over 60 years of age - if these people arrive at the hospital and enter intensive care, it is likely that they will turn into deaths,” he said. “But hospitalizations are going down and that’s a good thing. The deaths tomorrow may return to 10 or 15 because we have 100 people in intensive care.”
The positivity rate, said López, is decreasing slowly and responds to the continuing vaccination efforts and restrictive measures. As the positivity rates go down, so too will hospitalizations and deaths, he noted.