• The Star Staff

Health Dept. confirms lockdown recommendations to governor

By The Star Staff

A new list of recommendations made by the Puerto Rico Health Department for Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced was leaked Wednesday to all social media and press outlets.

According to the document bearing the official logo of the agency, a partial lockdown could be announced soon (possibly even today) starting Dec. 7 continuing until Dec. 21, and it may include a change in curfew hours and a full lockdown on Sundays.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Health Department reacted to the leaked official document by saying that is not a determination by the governor for the next executive order.

“The recommendation reports shared via social media today [Wednesday] are legitimate documents, prepared by the Data Sciences teams and the Municipal Case Investigation and Contact Tracing System of the Department of Health. They represent a summary of the current status of the epidemic in Puerto Rico, based on the data collected on the official platform of the Department of Health, the Bioportal,” the Health Department said in a written statement. “This report contains descriptive data, which breaks down the status of the epidemic, in reference to the system that serves it, to make recommendations based on the findings. The reports also contain advanced prediction models and risk measurement approaches, complementary to the existing ones, to strengthen the analysis and continue making decisions based on more in-depth analysis.”

The agency also said: “This document should not be construed as [one] that represents the final decision to be incorporated into the current executive order. It was shared with the scientific groups and was to be presented to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced so that, together with the recommendations of other groups, she can make an informed decision for the well being of the people of Puerto Rico and the proper management of the pandemic.”

The Health Department recommends that shopping malls, retail stores and department stores should move to online or outside pick-up sales. Restaurants and food trucks, meanwhile, would be open to families with fewer than six people per table. The department also promoted the delivery of food and pick-up systems. Food businesses cannot have their bars open, but they can sell alcohol served at the table. In bars and “chinchorros,” consumption is prohibited in the place and on the premises of the establishment; sales will be only by delivery or to-go.

The document signed by 12 health professionals who are in charge of the response to the pandemic on the island establishes that essential services that will not be affected in the time period covered by the partial lockdown must limit the time in which any person is present at the place and promote drive-through options. These include supermarkets (30 minutes), pharmacies (20 minutes), gas stations (20 minutes) -- repairs of cars or electrical appliances will be by appointment only -- medical appointments (30 minutes), and hospitals according to need, with the determined protocols and without company except for minors and people with disabilities.

Visits to businesses such as spas, beauty parlors and barbershops will be by appointment and staff must work with an N95 or surgical mask, and must provide masks to clients. Also, clients cannot be allowed to enter with cloth masks.

Also according to the Health Department document, churches should promote virtual services and reduce any face-to-face activity to six people or fewer.

The document also recommends gyms remain closed and prohibited from offering services. Also, cinemas, theaters, public swimming pools, museums, libraries and game centers for children or adults must also remain closed.

In the case of public employees, the new restrictions provide for workers in non-essential agencies continuing to work remotely.

The group of health professionals also propose reducing the entry of tourists and relatives who travel to the island to visit. They will require a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to arrival.

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