Health Dept. Investigations Office ensures enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

As Puerto Rico is about to surpass 23,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano warns of a possible return to lockdown if cases keep increasing, the island Health Department’s (DS by its Spanish initials) Investigations Office has been working nonstop to enforce the executive order enacted by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

During the course of the weekend, DS Investigations Office Director Jesús Hernández announced a series of closures due to noncompliance with safety protocols. On Saturday, the DS announced that Kantares Restaurant Bar and Grill on Isla Verde Avenue was ordered to close as it did not comply with the 10 p.m. closing order for businesses.

Hernández said “it was not the first time that we have guided Kantares’ management on the provisions of the executive order.

“As this is the second time that we have intervened with the establishment for failing to comply with it and putting the lives of diners and employees at risk, we were forced to order its closure,” he said.

The Investigations Office also ordered the closure of Sabrina Bistro Bar on Loíza Street in Santurce because it didn’t comply with the established curfew, sold alcoholic beverages outside the allowed hours, had people crowded inside the establishment, and did not order visitors to use face masks.

Meanwhile, Investigations Office personnel visited retail store Costco, located near Plaza Escorial in Carolina, as they had received anonymous tips on violations of protective measures by both employees and visitors. The big box store closed voluntarily and committed itself to sanitizing its premises according to DS parameters.

“It is unacceptable that, at this point, there are establishments that violate the law and put not only their licenses at risk but also the lives of the people who work at and visit their businesses,” Hernández said.

Another intervention at the Golden China Oriental restaurant in the island municipality of Culebra led to its closure due to non-compliance with the health protocols and regulations.

DS continues interventions to comply with executive order

Investigations Office personnel also swooped in at a residence in Hacienda El Lago, Trujillo Alto, where a private party was being held. Hernández said that after receiving information about the invitation to the party through social media platforms, they proceeded to raid the residence, where a party called Stereo Nights Pool Party was being held. The Health chief said the owner of the residence took responsibility for the situation and provided all the information that was required.

“During the intervention, which took place after midnight, it was evidenced that the curfew was not being complied with, there were crowds of people gathered, without the proper use of masks and without physical distancing, putting the health of all attendees at risk,” said a DS press release.

Meanwhile, Zajorí Gastro Show restaurant on Loíza Street in Santurce was given an orientation by the Investigations Office on social distancing measures, compliance with the curfew and the use of face masks. Another establishment known as LiT, also on Loíza Street, was visited and found to be in compliance with all health and safety protocols, both for its employees and visitors.

“We will not rest on our commitment to ensure the health of citizens, but we need everyone’s cooperation,” Hernández said. “As I have said on other occasions, it is not only about enforcing the law, but also about saving lives.”

Regarding the case that has been reported on in the press involving a nightclub in Old San Juan where, apparently, minors were gathered, Hernández said “at the moment, the situation is under investigation, so we ask for the space to make a clear review of the scene and, if necessary, take the pertinent actions.”

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