Health chief: Next executive order is more restrictive, but not a return to full lockdown
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Island Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said on Tuesday that the next executive order, expected to be announced today by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, is going to be more restrictive than Executive Order 2020-041, which authorized a limited reopening -- up to 50 percent capacity -- of malls, automobile dealerships, churches, beauty salons and restaurants in Puerto Rico during the coronavirus pandemic.
González Feliciano said the medical and economic task forces reached a consensus at a meeting at La Fortaleza with Vázquez and himself. He said that as a follow-up to the most recent order, the Economic Task Force submitted an inspection plan while the Health Department is in charge of designing educational campaigns to use with all sectors on complying with safety measures in the fight against the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
When asked by a member of the press if a lockdown is to be issued for any specific sector, the Health chief said the new order was not going to be as restrictive as the May 1 order.
“It’s more restrictive than [Executive] Order [2020-0]41, but the next order is unlike Executive Order 038. It’s not a full lockdown, it’s not a complete shutdown -- it is not,” he said. “We have to wait for the governor as there are some elements and details that are being looked over at this moment along with other petitions that are being made that she must study as the first executive.”
Meanwhile, González Feliciano said he has been “very clear” when it comes to citizens being undisciplined as they have lowered their guard and, for this reason, the department had to rely on developing educational campaigns to persuade all sectors to comply with social distancing and the use of face masks.
“Another thing that is important is the oversight, the enforcement, complying with the order and the educational part, where there are some proposals to tackle and try to approach all populations, recognizing their variations and delivering educational campaigns,” he said.
The island’s top physician said the department is setting up a meeting with both the Puerto Rico Mayors Federation and Puerto Rico Mayors Association to advise members on what to do at electoral events after what happened Sunday night with the celebrations that followed the conclusion of the primary elections might have an impact on positive COVID-19 cases.
“There might be an impact, but, as always, we have to wait from 14 to 21 days from that time,” González Feliciano said. “So, as the numbers take their course, they should reflect if there was an impact due to these events in terms of positive cases, hospitalizations and, potentially, deaths.”
Regarding a shortage of reagents for molecular tests to detect COVID-19, González Feliciano said the pharmaceutical company Roche met with both the governor and himself and agreed to distribute 44,000 tests a month. Likewise, he said that the shortage is not due to a lack of funds, as they are using funds provided by the Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but rather is more of an availability issue with other American pharmaceutical companies.
“This is not a question of economic capability,” the Health secretary said. “I want you to understand that the reagents [issue] is not due to a lack of money as we are using funds from the CARES Act. Anyone who says that does not know what we are doing. It has nothing to do with [lacking] economic capability for an acquisition.”
On Tuesday the Health Department reported record numbers as 633 COVID-19 cases were confirmed with sample dates from Aug. 3 to Aug. 14, along with 394 probable cases, with screening done from Aug. 5 to Aug. 15, and 11 deaths.
The new executive order could be in effect for 21 days starting Saturday.