Governor: Monitor all candidates’ political events for health safety, not just hers
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said media outlets and citizens should monitor other candidates’ political events to the same degree as they do hers after she participated in a New Progressive Party primary activity on Monday where there was little social distancing being practiced around the audience.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Puerto Rico, Vázquez said she was going to cancel every political activity that generated crowds of people, yet she attended Monday’s event, which gathered public servants who support her gubernatorial campaign, where pictures posted on social media showed no physical distance being maintained between audience members and where a few in attendance were not wearing their masks correctly. The images spurred heavy criticism.
“I consider that this monitoring should be done to every candidate, because I see that the only candidate who is being monitored is this candidate, from a political perspective, which I don’t mind,” the governor said Tuesday during a press conference.
Meanwhile, the governor insisted that the aforementioned activity complied with the safety measures that the World Health Organization recommended, as every attendee was screen-tested for their body temperature, their hands were sanitized and the seats were accommodated to abide by social distancing requirements. In addition, she said the picture that was posted on media outlets was the only occasion where they came together, and that they separated again after the picture was taken.
“I told them to stand up from where they were, we stood up, everyone looked at the camera and we took the photograph,” she said. “In the rest of the conference, they did follow security protocol: temperature, hand sanitizer, face masks and distancing according to the seat placement.”
In response to a question from the press, Vázquez said she was not going to consider what happened at the campaign event as contradictory given the declarations she has made scolding others for not being responsible enough or for not practicing social distancing or using a face mask. She added that as the event was scheduled beforehand, she was obliged to attend.
“I reaffirm what I said last time -- when I finished the press conference, everyone [there] was invited and many came from far away,” the governor said. “As you all could see from some of the pictures, we took all the safety measures: they had their temperature taken, they had hand sanitizer applied, they had their face masks on and there was social distancing in terms of the seat placement as I thanked them for coming.”
“It’s a courtesy; the least I could have done was to arrive and explain what I had determined for the [primary] campaign,” she added. “They were already there as it was scheduled for that day, so my intention was to show up and reaffirm the norms that will take place in the following two weeks while we work with the COVID-19 pandemic. I will not take this as a contradiction.”
In order to prevent the crowding of people in upcoming events, the governor said she suggested to her campaign team that each person had to stay inside their vehicles and, if they were to come out, they had to wear their face mask. The campaign team is also looking into siting events in open spaces to facilitate social distancing.
“From now on, everyone should be inside their vehicles and, if they come out of them, they must have their face masks on,” Vázquez said. “That should be part of the protocol.”