Health secretary: No way in-person classes can start next week
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Even though Puerto Rico Physicians & Surgeons Association (CMCPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Ramos has requested that schools reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, island Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano on Wednesday rejected the idea that schools could begin in-person classes on Sept. 17.
When members of the press asked if the reopening of schools could be part of Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced’s next executive order, with the current one expiring on Friday, González Feliciano said it was not going to happen.
“We know that the expected date for the start of in-person [public school classes] was September 17. We know that that day won’t happen. Schools cannot start on September 17 with the situations we face. In the same way, we are working on the informatics, the [contact] tracing part,” he said. “We are working to connect the full registration of 288,000 students enrolled in the public education system to guarantee that we get an interactive formula with these students, something very similar to what we did with the airport’s SARA Alert.”
Meanwhile, when the calls for reopening from the local gaming and gym sectors were brought up at the press conference, the CMCPR president said the discussions should shift into focusing more on how to reopen schools and begin in-person classes.
“I think that it is important for us, as pediatricians, to shift the discussion because we are always [focusing on] if casinos, gyms and ‘this or that’ will open. We should be focused more on opening schools. We, as pediatricians, want our kids to go to their schools because, more than education, the children, their social interaction, sedentariness are important [matters to address]. If I create the conditions so schools open again, the rest can also open,” Ramos said. “So the discussion should be centered on how to map out a goal so our schools open and the rest can open as it is more challenging to do so.”
Health chief hasn’t seen prevention proposal from domestic violence shelters
The Star reported on Monday that domestic violence shelters have yet to receive a response to a prevention protocol proposal for gender violence survivors with COVID-19 that was presented to the Health and Family departments and the Women’s Advocate Office back on April 26. González Feliciano said he has not seen any such proposal, while insisting that “every proposal that arrives gets our attention.”
“Once again, I would like to check on my desk and see if it exists in my department,” the Health chief said. “If not, I will call them to see what their needs are.”
When the Star asked whether the Health Department was aware of the matter, given that the Puerto Rico Domestic Violence Shelter Network had reported the lack of COVID-19 tests for both survivors and shelter employees, González Feliciano said he was sure that information about the issue had not arrived at the department.
“[They] should come to the department,” he said. “It hasn’t arrived … it hasn’t arrived. There are tests available via drive-thru, 500-600 tests every day.”