Governor to seek towns’ help to fight COVID-19
By The Star Staff
Flanked by Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy and National Guard Adj. Gen. José Reyes, Gov Wanda Vázquez Garced announced Monday there will be a meeting with mayors whose municipalities have a high density of COVID-19 cases to reinforce efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes the sometimes fatal disease.
The governor said the meeting will be announced later this week. The municipalities with the most COVID-19 cases are Ceiba, Camuy and Maunabo with over 25 percent. She said that in rural towns, bars are opening up to the public in violation of the executive order.
“While most businesses are complying with restrictions, it is the responsibility of citizens [to manage COVID-19],” she said. “We do not dismiss the possibility of more severe restrictions because although businesses are complying we have seen in social media how citizens are behaving.”
She said the disease is more prevalent among young people and in community gatherings.
Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said he expects the year to end with 1,400 deaths. The number of hospitalized people went down to 500, from the 622 hospitalizations reported earlier. The Health secretary said that following a meeting with economic officials, Health and public safety authorities will decide on their next steps. He described the latest incidents in Puerto Rico in which people have violated restrictions such as a local hotel that had a clandestine discotheque.
“We hope citizens act prudently,” he said.
González Feliciano noted that there is already a protocol in place to start vaccinations, but people should not put all their hopes in it. The process will require two vaccines.
“It will take months for people to achieve herd immunity,” he said.
He rejected the idea that COVID-19 was a conspiracy as the island has had more than 1,000 deaths.
Laboy said Puerto Rico is on orange alert. On Nov. 25, he announced the pre-holiday shopping season and a campaign for people to buy from local merchants. He said he has been in contact with business groups such as the United Retailers Association and the Restaurant Association to determine the performance of the business sector.
“The truth is that in general terms, flow of people has been slow. There are fewer people going out,” Laboy said. “The information that we have is that more people are buying online.”
Laboy urged businesses to be responsible amid the pandemic.
“We want merchants to continue to be responsible, impose safety protocols and not let their guard down,” he said. “Businesses that violate protocols or are not responsible must face the consequences.”
Police Commissioner Henry Escalera said there have been 1,038 arrests and more than 2,033 tickets have been issued. The interagency group has conducted 7,500 interventions with businesses. Reyes and Assistant Secretary Irma Cardona spoke about vaccination logistics, which is slated to start this month.
Earlier Monday as mayors sought a lifting of restrictions on the operations of businesses, González Feliciano said government agencies were going to meet to analyze possible changes to the latest executive order issued by Vázquez to stop the rise in infections and deaths from COVID-19.
Although December is expected to be worse than November, mayors want the central government to delegate the imposition of restrictions to the municipalities as many are in critical state due to lost revenues.
González Feliciano declined to say whether there will be a lockdown in the future but said restrictions will be made more stringent.
“I don’t like to talk about lockdown but if it is needed, there will be additional restrictions to ensure the system can absorb anything happening over the holidays and Three Kings Day,” he said.
“I am concerned about the level of fatigue of the medical staff and our nurses,” the Health chief said. “Because it is still the same circle of people who are working.”
Ten doctors, and at least 11 nurses, respiratory therapists, and other health care personnel on the island have died from COVID-19.
González Feliciano called attention to the continuous rise in cases of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico.
Island mayors, such as those in Guaynabo and Coamo, want bars to open in a controlled fashion. Towns have lost revenues as a result of the lockdown.
Cataño Mayor Félix Delgado said he knows where the bars are and can warn owners that if they do not follow strict guidelines they are going to be shut down.
Some mayors noted that there are businesses operating in a clandestine fashion.
Guaynabo Mayor Ángel Pérez said “we can reach certain agreements and if they are not fulfilled, then you will be shut down. What happens in one city, does not happen in another.”
Physicians & Surgeons Association President Víctor Ramos said most people become infected in bars. He said 80 percent of the people who are infected show no symptoms and spread the virus to the rest of the population.