TEMUCO – As the coronavirus has spread the length of the country, some places have been hit harder than others. The Metropolitan Region has been leading in the numbers, but the Araucanía Region is quickly gaining on it. A recent surge is concentrated in the city of Temuco which is currently the city with the most infected citizens.
The Araucanía is the region with the second most confirmed coronavirus cases. As of this writing, it has 477 cases and nine deaths. Out of these, a large number is from the city of Temuco, which is the second hardest hit location in the country, after the municipality of Las Condes. Due to the number of residents and size of Santiago, the municipalities are being considered as individual cities to properly measure the impact of the virus.
The Araucanía Region currently has quarantined Temuco, which also has sanitary customs set up at the entry points of the city, and Padre las Casas, which had a large outbreak caused by an infected person going to mass in an evangelical church.
Meanwhile, mayors from smaller towns in the region complain that they are being abandoned by the government, forcing them to take matters into their own hands. The mayor of Vilcún, Susana Aguilera, ordered that a sanitary customs stop be set up to protect the town. The town has a scare on its hands after a nurse vaccinated nearly 300 of its senior citizens and then tested positive for the virus. Five other mayors have presented a formal complaint against the Minister of Health, asking him to declare a region-wide quarantine.
Temuco’s climbing infection rate is attributed to the incompetence of local authorities and residents’ ignorance of how easily the disease spreads.
The First Infected
In the first days after the pandemic arrived in Chile, Temuco was relatively free of coronavirus, with no confirmed cases. On Mar. 14, however, a 29-year-old man traveled from the Metropolitan Region to Temuco to attend a wedding right after getting tested for COVID-19. It was only after he got off the plane that he received the news that he was positive, resulting in all 27 passengers being deemed at risk. When questioned about his actions, the man said that doctors hadn’t properly warned him about the precautions he needed to take pending the results of his test.
After that first case, authorities expanded their search and began testing more people which led to the discovery that Katia Guzmán, the Regional Secretary of The Ministry of Health (SEREMI), was carrying the virus. The diagnosis was made only after she held numerous press conferences and meetings with regional authorities.
It is estimated that she is responsible for infecting over twelve people with the virus and nine members of the press. Because of this, infection specialists have designated her as a super spreader, meaning she could be held responsible for the rising numbers of cases in the region – a prospect that seems all the more possible now that national prosecutors have opened an investigation.
A Critical Time for the Araucanía Region
The Araucanía Region faces a tough time. As of this writing, the Hernán Henríquez Aravena Hospital ICU in Temuco is completely overloaded. The President of the Araucanía Medical College chapter has said that out of the 29 extra ICU beds they had obtained, only one remains available. This has forced the hospital to adjust its emergency protocols. The hospital will give priority to those who are under 65 and who have a real chance of surviving the illness. That means that anyone who has a cardiovascular disease, HIV, or cancer will not be given priority.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.