Health Dept. and Police Bureau commit to enforcing executive order to prevent COVID-19

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

With the commitment to enforce the latest executive order that seeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, the island Health Department (DS by its Spanish initials) continued to collaborate with law enforcement agencies over the weekend as Investigations Office Director Jesús Hernández issued fines and ordered the closure of several establishments in various towns.

Hernández said Sunday that personnel from both the aforementioned office and San Juan municipal police raided an after-hours drinking establishment located on the second floor of El Ensayo in Río Piedras and ordered its closure as “they were violating all the provisions of the executive order, including the use of masks and the consumption of alcoholic beverages, outside the established time.”

During the intervention, authorities found 70 people gathered during the early hours of Sunday morning consuming alcoholic beverages and not complying with physical distancing rules enacted in the order. Hernández said the owner of the establishment was fined and could also face criminal char ges pending a consultation with commonwealth authorities.

Meanwhile, the DS ordered the shutdown of Brisas BBQ in the Collores sector in Las Piedras, as authorities found crowds of people gathered inside the establishment, guests not being requested to use face coverings, and alcoholic beverages being dispensed at the bar outside the curfew hours determined by the order.

In the same eastern-central municipality, another establishment known as the Girasol Motel was fined for selling alcoholic beverages outside of established hours, and Tijuana Bar & Grill in the Caribbean Shopping Center, along with Las 7 Potencias in Barrio Montones and Qué Barbaridad on Highway 921, were also fined for violation of the executive order regarding the use of masks and physical distancing.

Hernández thanked local authorities from the municipality and said “we are going to continue with interventions in establishments that are not complying with the executive order.”

“This is a very serious matter because each one of the violations represents a health risk for citizens,” he said.

Hernández added that, since early Thursday, Investigations Office personnel have ordered an establishment in Cataño shut down and have issued fines against various businesses such as Hotel La Rueda in Bayamón and Crazy Wise Wings and Chinin Tripletas, both in Toa Baja. Meanwhile, the Villa Borinquen Motel in Toa Baja, as well as Guacamole and A la Leña in Las Piedras, were among establishments that were inspected and showed that they were complying with the executive order and Health Department regulations.

“We ordered the closure of Storm Riders Taverna, in the Palmas district in Cataño, for not having licenses for the sale of alcohol, failing to comply with the use of masks and sale of alcoholic beverages outside the established hours,” Hernández said. “In the intervention, the owners described the establishment as a motor club; however, inside the premises, a cash register and the sale of alcoholic beverages were observed. A tattoo room was also found with syringes, inks, designs, and chairs used for tattooing when the business did not have health licenses for these purposes.”

Puerto Rico Police Bureau Commissioner Henry Escalera said in a written statement that his agency will continue to ensure compliance with the executive order that seeks to stop COVID-19 from spreading and called on both citizens and visitors to comply with the provisions issued by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced.

“Most citizens are aware of the importance of maintaining physical distance, wearing masks, and complying with established schedules,” Escalera said. “However, some people still try to carry out activities outside what is allowed, in clear breach of the provisions of the Executive Order. These people are exposing themselves to fines and other penalties such as the closure of businesses or the revocation of licenses.”

The current executive order, which remains in effect until Nov. 13, authorizes the percentage of occupancy in commercial establishments and dining rooms to increase to 55 percent, while places such as movie theaters, casinos and gyms that were allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity under the previous order can now have up to 30 percent occupancy.

Meanwhile, public transportation services such as the Metropolitan Bus Authority, the Urban Train, and tourist transportation provided by the Maritime Transport Authority only to the island municipality of Culebra will be re-established next Monday, Oct. 26.