Gov’t coordinates joint forces to enforce COVID executive order during Holy Week
Governor urges locals: Follow safety measures so as not to ‘reverse all we have achieved’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
As Holy Week has begun in Puerto Rico, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced Monday that various government agencies will coordinate strategies to enforce the executive order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and maintain order during a period in which a high number of travelers are expected to visit the island.
At a press conference held in the garden site at La Fortaleza, the governor said agencies such as the Department of Health, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), the Tourism Co., and all components of the Department of Public Safety and the island National Guard have joined forces to continue enforcing the executive order.
“We are still living in the midst of a pandemic, and, unfortunately, we have seen an increase in positive [COVID] cases and hospitalizations in recent days,” the governor said. “We need the cooperation of everyone in Puerto Rico to save lives and to ensure that we do not reverse all that we have achieved.”
Pierluisi said the Health Department’s Investigations Office will continue to monitor businesses and locations throughout the island to ensure compliance with all rules and restrictions under the order.
The governor also said the Department of Health’s bioportal “will continue to improve its application by including greater access to information and increased monitoring of all travelers arriving on the island or those who test positive for the coronavirus.”
As for the Public Safety Department, the governor said the Puerto Rico Police Bureau will strengthen earlier initiatives such as traffic control by allocating 3,500 officers during the week, including ground patrol, motorized units, bicycle agents, and more United Rapid Action Forces agents to enforce the COVID decree and establish order in different tourist zones.
He added that the 911 Emergency Systems Bureau (NSE911 by its Spanish initials) has hired more Public Safety Telecommunicators “amid the possibility of an increase in emergency phone calls” during Holy Week.
Pierluisi went on to say that the Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau will be collaborating with the National Weather Service given that “weather conditions, this week, are not favorable on both coasts and at beach resorts.”
The governor said the DNER’s Ranger Corps will be reinforcing patrols on the coast, at beaches, wilderness parks and spas, and in forests, maritime-terrestrial zones, and protected areas.
“They will be on the waters watching over boaters so that they comply with the restrictions and have up-to-date documents and safety equipment,” he said.
The Tourism Co., meanwhile, will be establishing educational campaigns by means of signs with information about the executive order in English in various tourist areas such as Culebra, Vieques, Ceiba, and other municipalities that expect to receive holiday week travelers, Pierluisi said.
“We started campaigns to encourage responsible and safe tourism, such as ‘Tu Break Activa’o,’ and the strategic alliance between Tourism, Natural Resources and Con-Waste for cleaning beaches, taking advantage of the fact that we are [about to enter] Earth Month,” the governor said.
He noted that the Tourism Co. will also be providing official information to airlines on the prevention measures established in Puerto Rico for anyone considering traveling to the island during the season.
Meanwhile, the agency will have bilingual employees assigned to tourist information booths at Ventana del Mar in Condado and at the San Juan, Ponce and Aguadilla airports.
Pierluisi announced that the latter two airports will start operating this week and that some 1,100 Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers will be activated to continue the coronavirus passenger screening that remains at both Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and the Port of Ceiba, where officers request a negative COVID-19 test and a travel declaration from travelers.
A traveler who does not bring a timely negative result must go into quarantine for 14 days until a test is performed.