Governor has not decided what to do after COVID-19 case spikes

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

While confirmed cases of COVID-19 are rising dramatically in Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced has yet to decide which measurements she will consider in the next executive order to control the spread of the disease as she waits for more recommendations from her medical and economic task forces.

In a crammed lobby of the Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, where there was little chance to practice social distancing, she said the decision is yet to be announced as Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano will evaluate the suggestions and concerns from both task forces and other experts who participated in a meeting before the press conference.

Meanwhile, she scolded citizens for not using face masks or practicing any physical distancing, although members of the press called out the governor for being without her mask and not distancing herself from citizens during her primary campaign. Photos all over Facebook and Twitter prove it.

“In terms of my primary campaign, I told my campaign directors that, in the next two weeks, there would be no activity that promotes any spread [of the coronavirus],” Vázquez said. “The example might start at home, but it’s everyone’s responsibility, not mine only. The majority of my [campaign] staff had face masks on. I only took my mask off whenever everyone else had their masks on or when I wanted to show my gratitude to citizens. But, even if I lose votes, I will make choices for the sake of the people.”

The governor said repeatedly that she will not hold back if she has to consider returning to rigorous measures for the sake of protecting the health and lives of Puerto Rico citizens. She also scolded people younger than 30 years of age as cases have spiked by 15.6 percent in this population, with some engaging in civil protest activities without wearing a face mask.

“To this population, love your parents, your grandparents, your siblings; in order to protect them, please use your face masks; it’s the only way you can protect your family from COVID-19,” Vázquez said.

On one hand, González said, Monday’s meeting was positive as both the health and economic sectors shared interesting ideas and, although there is no proposal yet, both sectors called for additional analysis to make decisions based on scientific data, not opinions. Nevertheless, when concerns were raised regarding a shortage of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) reagents in private clinical laboratories, the Health chief said such shortages were expected not only in Puerto Rico, but also in the rest of the world.

“We asked each referred laboratory through the laboratory director of the Health Department to provide us [PCR] testing data from six weeks ago,” he said. “This means that we will go back to the initial phase of COVID-19, where we limit resources to hospitalized and elderly patients.”

Meanwhile, as The Star asked the Health secretary about concerns that travelers arriving in Puerto Rico spent two weeks waiting for COVID-19 molecular results from the airport’s screening test, giving tourists and residents a low-risk perception, González said only that the errors will be fixed on Wednesday.

“From July 15, travelers will have two options: arrive with a negative COVID-19 test result or be under quarantine,” he said. “There will be no testing at airports unless the traveler has symptoms of the disease.”

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