Governor announces general vaccine campaign and stricter EO in State Message
Highlights accomplishments during COVID-19 emergency
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Starting at 6:11 p.m, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia delivered his first State of the Commonwealth Message on Wednesday to members of Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly, in which he reviewed the government’s achievements and projects he intends to prioritize during his term of office, and highlighted important issues such as health, education, gender violence, infrastructure, technology and the economy, among others.
During the message, he announced that coronavirus vaccinations will be open starting Monday for every resident who is 16 years and older as he urged islanders to continue being cautious amid an uptick in the COVID-19 cases.
“Every Puerto Rican deserves access to health care and together we will defeat this virus,” the governor said.
Pierluisi also announced the next executive order on public health protocols, which will take effect Friday, and in which he anticipated that the curfew hours will be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and that commercial establishments will close at 9 p.m.
“All activities or events that involve crowds of people are prohibited unless a waiver is granted, the PCR molecular test requirement is maintained for all travelers entering Puerto Rico, and the Department of Health’s control resources will be increased to corroborate compliance with the quarantine of travelers and all the provisions of the order,” Pierluisi said as he announced the allocation of $20 million to the Health Department to improve the island’s genomic surveillance system in response to the confirmation of four coronavirus variants on the island.
As part of his speech, Pierluisi promised to be “the last governor who has to say that he will solve the transportation problem to Vieques and Culebra,” announcing that he would be allocating funds to the Maritime Transportation Authority to improve its financial condition and speeding up the public-private agreement with HMS Ferries.
Furthermore, he said he would be assigning $1 million to Vieques to begin the construction of a hospital, an issue that has dragged on since 2017.
“I have not brought magic wands or grandiose promises,” the governor said. “What I am bringing is seriousness, maturity and a firm commitment at the head of government. A focus on action and results for the people and for the future of Puerto Rico. Our people deserve more and together we are going to achieve it.”
“The wait is over, now comes the action,” Pierluisi added. “This is going to be a four-year period of work.”
Among the announcements made by the governor, a new Trauma Hospital resistant to earthquakes and other disasters will be built. In addition, water projects will be carried out, such as the Valenciano reservoir and others, for communities that have had service failures for years. Also, the infrastructure projects in Caño Martín Peña will begin sooner, highway PR-5 will be extended, PR-10 will be completed and PR-2 between Hatillo and Aguadilla will become an expressway.
Likewise, among the priority projects is the development of the old Roosevelt Roads base in Ceiba.
As part of the laws establishing energy public policy that requires the transformation of Puerto Rico’s power grid, Pierluisi argued that “we have a golden opportunity to create a robust, modern and resilient system that increasingly relies on clean, renewable energy generated by all of Puerto Rico.”
Therefore, he said, the 15-year contract with LUMA Energy to manage the island’s transmission and distribution system is “consistent with that public policy and passed through the sieve of the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Financial Oversight and Management Board, as well as the [Puerto Rico] Energy Bureau.”
In the governor’s opinion, the Debt Adjustment Plan presented by the federal oversight board contains economic terms that are “very positive and sustainable.” However, he reiterated that “my commitment is clear: we are going to honor public pensions in Puerto Rico.”
Pierluisi also reviewed the educational work of recent months that includes the reopening of public schools. He gave assurances that he is working hard to repair the schools so that all children, including those from the south of the island, can return to the classroom.