• The Star Staff

Health Dept. intervenes with businesses failing to comply with COVID-19 rules

By John McPhaul


In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen health protocols, the island Department of Health (DH) carried out 25 interventions at businesses in the San Juan metropolitan area. In addition, the agency intervened with tourists entering Puerto Rico who failed to comply with the travel declaration form established by the commonwealth government.

As of July 15, 2020, all travelers must present a test carried out 72 hours or less before their trip to Puerto Rico. Those who do not submit the test must remain in quarantine for 14 days or until presenting a negative result.

“The staff of the Office of Investigations, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Interagency Group, is constantly outlining strategic plans to reinforce safety and protection measures for citizens,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said. “Businesses must comply with protocols to avoid contagion. It is unfortunate that while many health professionals work every day dealing with the pandemic, there are other people with irresponsible behavior who think that the public health emergency has ended, when that is not true.”

The Health secretary reaffirmed that tourists are obliged, in turn, to follow the rules established in the executive order.

“The tourists with whom [agency personnel] intervened came from Chicago and Brooklyn and did not provide a negative result from the molecular test,” he said.

The travel declaration form has clauses where the citizen assures that the information is correct. The penalty for making a false statement could be up to three years in prison for perjury. The cases are being consulted with the island prosecutor’s office.

As a result of the interventions at businesses, meanwhile, 15 establishments were ordered to close. They are: Drinking Die Sports Bar, Don Rey Smoke Shop and Wine, Colmado Bar La Minita, Business 1023 Restaurant & Bar, Colmado El Padrinito Méndez, Jalao Mini Market & Bar, Super Colmado la T Business, Ropa Vieja, Diana’s Pizza on De Diego Avenue, Cafeteria Michael, Garage Puma, El Nuevo Yucayeque in Río Piedras, Jalao Mini Market & Bar, La Bandera Business and a CVS pharmacy.

Another 10 businesses were fined for non-compliance with the COVID-19 protocols: Burrito Social, Julius Restaurant, Condado Walgreens, Los Amigos del Jangueo, Colmado Placita La Parada, Agua Ardiente, Lokos Kokos Bar and Grill Business, Mundo Celular and Star Barber Shop, among other interventions.

Meanwhile, a fight between tourists not following the COVID-19 protocols broke out in a hotel in San Juan and was shared on social networks Saturday night.

A video shared on the Instagram account of television newscast Informe 79 (https://www.instagram.com/informe79/?utm_source=ig_embed) shows a group of tourists arguing among themselves, hitting each other with their hands and chairs, pushing and screaming at each other for several minutes.

Security personnel intervened with the tourists and urged them to go to their rooms at the hotel located in the Convention Center district in Miramar.

In the recording of the incident, it can be observed that the tourists are not wearing masks or maintaining physical distancing as required in Puerto Rico according to all the executive orders that two governors have issued in the past year.

At Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, incidents have also been reported in which tourists challenge health and security personnel, do not follow instructions and even attack officials when they receive guidance that they should wear masks.

Jesús Hernández, director of the DH’s Investigations Office, said his office will continue to identify travelers who do not comply with the protocols and they will be referred to the corresponding authorities.

“Once tourists arrive in Puerto Rico, they must present the ‘Travel Declaration Form (TDF)’ and those who do not have a negative test [result] for the virus must undergo a mandatory quarantine,” Hernández said. “However, many of them are not complying. We are going to continue visiting businesses and intervening with those who do not comply with the rules.”

To assist with the DH’s efforts, anyone who knows a place that operates in breach of the executive order can send a confidential message via email to investigations@salud.pr.gov, Hernández said.

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