• The Star Staff

Governor eyeing COVID hospitalization numbers to decide whether to strengthen EO restrictions

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Amid the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Puerto Rico, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced Wednesday that he is monitoring the numbers in case he has to increase restrictions in the next executive order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“I am monitoring from day to day. If there is reason to restrict it, I will do so, although right now there is not that justification,” Pierluisi said. “Infection levels have not reached the red level or even orange. We are at a level right now that, for the executive order we have, is reasonable. The important thing is that the order is being enforced.”

“There is a clear time to intervene and restrict. But our hospitals have been able to face this pandemic, even at the height of it,” the governor added.

Pierluisi added that Puerto Rico will be able to comply with the mandate of President Joe Biden to expand the vaccine campaign on or before May 1 for the entire adult population.

“At the rate we are going, we are going to achieve that goal, possibly earlier,” he said.

The governor’s remarks came at the end of a visual inspection he conducted of the island Health Department COVID-19 VacuTour, in partnership with the VOCES Puerto Rico Vaccine Coalition, at Dr. Pedro Rosselló González Puerto Rico Convention Center in Miramar.

Earlier in the day, Health Secretary-designate Carlos Mellado López urged citizens to take care of themselves with the confirmed presence of COVID-19 variants on the island.

While confirming that the island is currently facing a case spike, Mellado López told members of the press he cannot “categorize here and say that they are not variants.”

“That is what is worrying,” he said. “That is why I strongly urge the public to take care of themselves, because the more we contain the virus and vaccinate more people, the more we will be able to get out of this situation.”

“If these variants continue to spread, then we could have a problem,” he added. “We have already seen it in Chile. That is why it is important that we, and I repeat, it is the citizens who have to take control of this.”

At press time, Mellado López said Puerto Rico continues to have 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus variants.

Among those, 14 cases involve the UK variant (B 1.1.7), four the California variant (B.1.427 / B.1.429) and one involves the Brazil variant (P.1).

The Puerto Rico Health Department expected to inoculate around 10,000 citizens with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot and 14 days to develop immunization in its recipient, to citizens who received an appointment for Wednesday’s mass vaccination event.

At press time, Mellado López said more than 5,000 coronavirus vaccines had been administered at the convention center.

When asked what will happen with islanders who attended the event without an appointment as it was reported that many were waiting in another line to get a shot, he said those citizens could wait until 10 p.m. to get a shot if there are leftover vaccines.

If not, he said, they will receive an inoculation appointment for another day.

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