Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Head of Puerto Rico COVID-19 Task Force Hints Social Distancing Measures May be Extended

By on March 24, 2020

(Screen capture of https://twitter.com/fortalezapr)

‘More announcements will be made soon to fight this emergency,’ Public Affairs Secretary Says 

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Public Affairs Secretary Osvaldo Soto García said Tuesday that the government is “diligently attending to all areas related to the emergency faced because of the COVID-19, together with the measures taken in the health area,” a release issued by the governor’s office reads.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, Soto assured, is in constant communication with “mayors, members of the legislature, agency heads, private sector leaders, and the entire government apparatus to ensure that the response to the COVID-19 situation on the island is adequate. The task forces, both medical and financial, that have been designated to work during this emergency, are not resting in their eagerness to achieve the objectives that best serve the good of Puerto Rico.”

The secretary added that “the economic measures presented by the governor have the purpose of preventing or minimizing the impact of this emergency on the public and private sector, as well as on workers, who day to day are the engine that drives the economy in the island. More announcements will be made soon to fight this emergency from all fronts.”

In the administration’s release, the general coordinator of the Task Force, Dr. Segundo Rodríguez, said that “the scope of the spread of COVID-19 depends on us as citizens. We are evaluating all public health alternatives to tackle this virus, which is easily contagious, and expand the action plan, if necessary. We [stress] that social distancing and handwashing are key to not exposing ourselves to the virus. The commitment of each Puerto Rican is vital to overcome this emergency.”

On Tuesday Rodríguez said in a WKAQ radio interview that the spread of the disease has already reached the stage of community contagion and that it is possible that social isolation measures will be extended, Cybernews reports.

Earlier, acting Health Department Secretary Concepción Quiñones de Longo issued a statement, saying five COVID-19 results returned positive, as did three conducted by the island’s VA hospital, thus the island’s number of confirmed cases is now 39. So far, two deaths have been reported.

The following developments are as of Tuesday. Some are as worded by the Vázquez administration:

Economic Development Department

—Details of the process and requirements to receive incentives will be released shortly to all small and medium-sized businesses that have ceased operations amid the crisis.
—This aid will benefit small and midsize businesses employers with 50 or fewer employees who do not qualify for federal aid.
—An incentive of $500 in cash will be granted to all self-employed workers, a group that comprises about 170,000 people in Puerto Rico.
—Currently, there are 170,000 self-employed workers, which includes 19,000 agricultural workers and 44,000 from the construction industry.

Department of Consumer Affairs

The secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym), Carmen Salgado, said 649 businesses have been visited by inspectors to ensure compliance with the price-freeze order for essential products.

To date, DACO has issued 23 fines to businesses for noncompliance. Inspectors have been monitoring gas stations, grocery stores, supermarkets and retail chains.

Department of Public Safety

—275 arrests for violating Executive Order # 23 (curfew)

—482 complaints for violating Executive Order # 23

Bureau of Emergencies and Disaster Management

—Support was being provided to Serrallés Distilleries’ distribution of alcohol for disinfecting to 15 hospitals, including the Medical Center and the municipalities of Toa Baja, Dorado, Toa Alta, Humacao, Las Piedras, Jayuya, Trujillo Alto, Naguabo, San Sebastián and Las Piedras, as well as the 9-1-1 Emergency System and Puerto Rico Police – North Region.

National Guard

As of 6 a.m. Tuesday:

—31,064 passengers had been screened at the island’s five airports

—85 passengers were sent to the triage area

—18 passengers were tested for COVID-19; they were advised and sent home under the supervision of the Health Department and their general practicioner

—55 passengers were sent to “home isolation”

—No passengers were sent to the hospital

Maritime Ports

Between 6 a.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, two cargo ships entered and seven departed. During the same period, six cargo boats, two tankers and one tourism vessel remain in the bay. The crew of these vessels is prevented from disembarking during their stay in Puerto Rico.

Airports

Education Department

According to department data, visits to the agency’s page exceed 1.75 million since the announcement of academic options. This represents massive support for the educational alternatives offered to school communities.

The EduPR platform registered the entry of 5,700 teachers and 40,072 parents and students in the first week.

The department signed an agreement with the Health Department for 84 school nurses to support the checkpoints established by the National Guard at the airport.

Department of State

—A new case of three Puerto Ricans stranded in Cusco, Peru was attended.
—Constant communication was maintained with the other Puerto Ricans in Peru and all received emails received by the U.S. State Department about the availability of flights for their return to the United States.
—Communication was established with the Tourism Company regarding the status of Holland America’s cruiseship Zandaam, which has a couple of Puerto Ricans on board.
—Communication was established with people stranded in Honduras and with the U.S. Embassy in that country. Communication was established with United Airlines to make flight reservation arrangements from Honduras on March 26.
—Continuous communication is maintained with the office of the Resident Commissioner to update the list of Puerto Ricans in Peru and cases in Honduras.
—Communication was established with the Costa Luminosa cruiseline to discuss options about the repatriation to Italy of the widower of the Italian citizen who died of Covid-19.
—A case of a stranded minor in Bermuda was addressed. Authorities from the Bermuda government and the United States Embassy were contacted.

Puerto Rico Administration of Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services (ASSMCA)

PAS Line:
Total calls: 1,326

Covid-19: 309

Chat: 224

Family Department

Across the entire island, the homeless population is being advised and assisted, providing information and prevention items in backpacks they can carry. These have alcohol solution, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, covering, soap, flashlight and other essential items. In addition, it includes an information sheet with telephone number 787-999-6202 so that they can communicate, in case they need medical support.

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