‘It is obvious what we must do: Vaccinate!’

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Amid a tripling of confirmed COVID-19 cases among 20-to-29-year-old islanders, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Monday urged unvaccinated residents to either protect themselves against the coronavirus or get inoculated.

During a press conference at the Metropolitan Bus Authority, where his administration announced a million-dollar investment to improve the entity’s installations and services, the governor said that although hospitals remain under control, variant cases are currently limited to small numbers and the government remains vigilant with the public health emergency, “we can’t lower our guard.”

“Particularly those who have not been vaccinated, you must mask up because you are putting your lives in danger, aside from exposing others [to the coronavirus],” he said. “Vaccination is the solution; in other words, we are repeating what we say every day.”

Pierluisi also noted that he continues to be advised by Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López, other top Health Department officials and the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition to address the emergency now that the government is lifting all coronavirus capacity restrictions.

“What we can say is that we must remain alert; we haven’t defeated this [pandemic],” he said.

“Those who have yet to vaccinate, and we recognize that it is young people who have not gotten their shots who are getting infected, and those who have been vaccinated, if they were to get infected, which would be a very small number, symptoms are milder.”

“It is obvious what we must do: vaccinate!” Pierluisi added. “Those who have not been vaccinated, protect yourselves! The virus is something serious.”

Meanwhile, the governor noted that the island continues getting “closer to reaching herd immunity.”

“Puerto Rico has looked very well during the pandemic, from start to finish,” the governor said. “We will remain cautious, we will keep an eye on statistics.”

“I have followed this issue, and hospital capacity was 10 times more than what we have now,” he said. “We had many patients plugged into ventilators and others hospitalized under intensive care, and now we have another scenario.”

“It doesn’t mean that we can’t claim victory, not yet, but we get closer to that every day,” he said.

When asked if he had a concrete plan to provide collective transportation to marginalized communities in light of a report by the Center for Investigative Journalism describing how difficult it can be for residents of remote areas to get to vaccination centers, Pierluisi said that among the investments announced at the press conference, he sought to provide more resources to the Department of Transportation and Public Works to begin addressing the issue.

“Collective transportation is a municipal responsibility,” the governor said. “We have 78 municipalities, and that varies from town to town -- some do, some don’t. With the resources available, we will do everything we can.”

“Obviously, we are more focused in the San Juan region because that has been the area that has historically used the majority of these resources,” he added.

“But as part of my public policy, I will be working shoulder to shoulder with other mayors, and I will recognize that many times, the ‘pockets’ of people who remain unvaccinated live in rural areas where no public transportation arrives, and I sympathize with them,” Pierluisi continued. “What we are doing with the Department of Health is that we are going straight to them, and mayors are doing the same.”

When asked if there is no specific plan to address this issue, he said that as government resources are limited, it is not possible to provide public transportation across the island.

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