• The Star Staff

Pierluisi to create scientific coalition to address COVID-19 pandemic

By The Star Staff

Governor-elect Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced on Sunday a plan to appoint a scientific coalition to reduce and stop the spread of the coronavirus using scientific data.

“I will create a Scientific Coalition that will provide advice to my team to shape our public policy, with a special focus on the current COVID-19 emergency. The Coalition will be made up of experts who will assist me during the transition process and to specify the strategies that will guide us toward the management and control of the virus,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “My team has anticipated that this has to be a coordinated effort, not only at the Puerto Rico level, but also with the U.S. government. We have already begun coordinating with members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, who are advising him on matters related to the federal Department of Health [and Human Services] and its Task Force on COVID-19, to ensure that we are integrated into any federal initiative for this fight and bring all the benefits of science, without delay, to the Puerto Rican people.”

The news comes after Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced issued an updated executive order restricting business and public life as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths surge. The order has been criticized because of the restrictions imposed on the business and tourism sectors, which are struggling to survive.

“Puerto Rico continues to be battered by the pandemic of the century, COVID-19. We have seen an increase in infections and hospitalizations, and experts tell us that the next few weeks are critical in managing the pandemic,” Pierluisi said. “So, we must responsibly unite as a people to combat it. We must recognize the sacrifices that our people and the economic sectors have had to make, and at the same time help them comply with the necessary measures to fight the virus.”

In view of the new executive order, he said each citizen is responsible for making the right decisions to protect himself or herself and others. Likewise, the government has the responsibility of ensuring that citizens comply with the public protection measures and with restrictions on social and commercial activities.

“The restrictive measures seek to prevent the loss of life and the collapse of our health system. At the same time, we have to provide the conditions so that the people can provide for their families and mitigate the damage to our economy,” the governor-elect said. “Those sacrifices now will serve as a basis for returning to normality in the near future. Our aspiration must be to be able to reopen safely, using science and empirical data to safeguard the health of our people.”

The COVID-19 virus is entering a new phase as scientific and clinical developments are extremely dynamic and changing, Pierluisi noted.

“2020 has been the year to close, protect and learn. 2021 is going to be the year to return to normalcy using scientific achievements, better data, access to more and better tests, reliable tracking, effective treatments, and vaccines,” he said. “Our mission is to guide that return to normalcy, and we all have to be focused on moving toward our common goals.

“To achieve these goals, there is no time to waste and we have to start working immediately. I have been in discussions with various healthcare professionals and statisticians, including trustees of the Science and Technology Trust, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other world-renowned experts. Puerto Rico has the capacity to achieve these goals in 2021 and we are going to move toward them. My administration will seek to integrate science into decision-making for the benefit of all Puerto Ricans, beginning with the pandemic.”

The concrete and immediate goals of the coalition will be to establish strategies to analyze all available scientific data, propose specific recommendations to improve the systems for tracking and identifying sources of contagion, and create interoperability among all government sectors related to prevention and control of the pandemic, resume the possibility of establishing a hospital dedicated to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, prepare for the acquisition, storage and distribution of vaccines, and any other initiative that is necessary during this emergency to safeguard the health of the Puerto Rico residents and return to normalcy as soon as possible, Pierluisi said.

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