The Cantabrian formula against Covid

When I arrived in Cantabria they told me, with great pride, that the Romans never conquered this land, and now it seems that history repeats itself, like a kind of village of Asterix and Obélix that resists the Covid. It has not appeared on the news, nor in national headlines, but the incidence of the virus here is more similar to that of some islands in the middle of the Atlantic than those of its neighboring communities. If Cantabria had 10 times the population it would be Madrid, but I suspect that, unfortunately, it would still not be as protagonist as this one. The penalty of a national media with little peripheral vision is that important stories, such as that of Cantabria and Covid19, go unnoticed and the entire experience of this small community is wasted.

The first striking result was published by international experts from the world’s most prestigious universities in public health. A magnificent article analyzed the INE data and determined that Cantabria was the Autonomous Community where mortality had the least impact during the first wave. It is an overwhelming fact and, although it was not a headline in the newspapers, it must be so in many hearts. In the hearts of all of us who have fought to the point of exhaustion. Those hearts must know that, during the first wave of the worst pandemic in the last 100 years, Cantabria was the only region that gained life expectancy in all of Spain. The only one.

Likewise, in this pandemic we have many times had low incidences compared to Spain. But many times the doubt was also raised as to whether these figures were real or the result of doing few tests or few traces. Because we all know (politicians included) that he who seeks finds and he who does not, does not. The real litmus test that showed that our low incidences were real was the seroprevalence study. The Enecovid. This pioneering study in the world took blood samples from thousands of Spaniards to really know how many people had been infected. No cheating or cardboard. Well, according to Enecovid, 1% more Cantabrians were infected in the second wave. If we compare with all of Spain, only Córdoba and the two provinces of the Canary Islands have registered increases of less than 1% since the first wave. In fact, our neighbors experienced much worse data: in Asturias it increased by + 2.8%, Palencia + 3.7%, Burgos + 3.8%, Bizkaia +2.2% … We are talking about between 11,000 and 20,000 people who have not been infected with Covid in Cantabria. Between 11,000 and 20,000 people who did not become ill, who did not suffer hospitalizations, who are not fighting the consequences of this disease or who simply continue to breathe. These good results are not just numbers, they are (we are) people who are still alive.

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It seems logical doesn’t it? Fewer infections, less deaths. But the Enecovid result also helps us to partially answer the question, why does Cantabria have such good data? Part of the answer was given to us by the Datadista portal, which compared the number of real infected against the number of cases that the communities diagnosed and – how curious – Cantabria had managed to diagnose more than 90% of cases, being one of the best communities in Spain to detect Covid.

The fact that there are no undiagnosed cases allows us to cut transmission and fewer people are infected. In Cantabria this success is due, to a great extent, to the great work of tracking and the structure created. While in many Autonomous Communities the previous two days are tracked, here the previous 7 days are analyzed (not only looking for who you have infected, but who has infected you and, therefore, more people). We copied this structure from Southeast Asia and it has worked. We have designed very comprehensive interviews that have allowed us to know that people who entered bars and restaurants had almost 4 times the risk of being infected with covid, or unraveling outbreaks that had put entire cities in check. Our data has been the basis of our decision making, like headlights that lit up during the storm and kept fewer people falling into the water. And the results support the arduous effort it has taken to design and implement such a structure in two months.

There are more lessons, many, but above all many people and much sacrifice: the incredible work of the professionals of the Ministry of Health, the Public Health Observatory and the Cantabrian Health Service, the priceless effort of the Public Health technicians, the military trackers, the responsibility of each and every one of the Cantabrians, of the people who have sacrificed so much, the residential workers, of all the companies that are suffering this crisis, the teachers who have gone out of their way, the Security Forces and Bodies…. Serve these lines as a tribute from the heart. To all of you, thank you very much.


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