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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

National Guard may assist with virus testing for students

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By John McPhaul

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López suggested on Tuesday that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia may activate the National Guard to help conduct random COVID-19 testing in island schools.

“We are trying to optimize resources,” Mellado López said as he left a meeting with the governor at La Fortaleza. “Right now, the Department of Health has 71 [testing] centers. How we can distribute more people aimed at meeting the need for schools to do these random tests -- that is what we are discussing today.”

“For me, to assign more people to do more tests, it is not simply to put them in place,” he added. “You have to train them and that takes three days. We already train all National Guard personnel so that they can do tests and be certified.”

Insisting that classes will be face-to-face, Mellado López recommended that the governor postpone the restart, scheduled for Jan. 11, for a week. Pierluisi was expected to make an announcement today on the resumption of classes. Schools have been closed since before Christmas.

“If the governor plans to postpone it, then that is a decision that he will make with the Secretary of Education, based on the considerations,” the health chief said.

“My position is that I would like to have time to do the [screening] tests,” Mellado López said. “I think that if he postpones [the restart of classes] for a week, he would have no problem; on the contrary, he gives us more time to make the adjustments that we have to make. But from the health point of view, for us it is extremely important that classes are face-to-face and we are going to do everything possible to provide that safe environment.”

The Health secretary said it is necessary to evaluate the percentage of positivity and how the children who are hospitalized are responding.

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