Saturday, October 24, 2020

Covid-19 task force hands baton to Puerto Rico Health Department

By on September 10, 2020

Gov. Vázquez reopens beaches, casinos, gyms, movie theaters; Sunday lockdown eliminated

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez issued a new executive order that lifts several restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic on the island, including eliminating a 24-hour lockdown Sundays and allowing the reopening of beaches, gyms, casinos and movie theaters, while allowing restaurants to run at 50 percent capacity. 

Vázquez stressed that the island is in a community spread phase, so physical distancing and the use of masks must be reinforced.

“The cases of major infections have not been in shopping centers or restaurants, but in family gatherings that do not use masks or social distancing measures. That is the responsibility of each person, not the government,” she said. “I urge you to take precautions to avoid more infections and deaths in Puerto Rico.”

Executive Order 2020-066 is slated to go into effect Saturday.

Movie theatres, casinos and gyms can run at 25 percent capacity, the same amount allowed for hotel pools.

At a news conference at the Puerto Rico Convention Center District in Miramar, Vázquez said that some restrictions would be more flexible. Nevertheless, the governor urged citizens to continue taking the necessary measures to control the spread of the potentially deadly virus. The new order will be enforced over the next 21 days, or until Oct. 2.

“Citizens have an individual responsibility of taking care of themselves and protecting their loved ones,” the governor said. “This is indispensable.”

Earlier Thursday, Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy said in a radio interview with Radio Isla (1320 AM) that he had recommended the “controlled reopening” of pools, beaches and casinos for tourists. Also recommended and later announced by the governor was the reopening of establishments on Sunday.

Vázquez said that in terms of interventions 3,200 inspections have been conducted by the government, including 176 in September, and only 19 businesses were not complying with the executive order.

The bars and dance clubs will remain closed, she said. Alcoholic beverages will now be allowed to be consumed and sold until 10 p.m. in restaurants and sold at supermarkets.

Marinas can reopen and “vessels must avoid the rafting [placing craft side by side] of less than 15 feet apart.”

Any boat owner who “violates the executive order…will face criminal charges,” Vázquez said.

A curfew is still in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. as part of the new order; however, the alcohol ban and the 24-hour lockdown on Sundays was eliminated.

The establishments that could previously only open with a 25 percent seating capacity, such as restaurants and churches can now do so at 50 percent capacity.

For those visiting beaches, social distancing, or remaining 6 feet apart, must be practiced, while wearing a mask when not swimming.

Public schools will continue to conduct distance learning to prevent students from getting infected and spreading the virus to their family members.

Proposals for concerts and theater events must be submitted for consideration by La Fortaleza’s chief of staff, Vázquez said, so long as safety measures are followed.

“Caravans and other activities that group people are still prohibited,” Vázquez said.

Government agency heads will have to ensure that all their staff returns to work, in person, on Sept. 14. Only workers with issues such as suffering from high-risk medical conditions can continue to work remotely.

Dr. Segundo Rodríguez said that leading the medical task force “has been a great responsibility,” adding that over the past few months, “the government approved multiple executive orders. Today, I can say that I am extremely proud of the island’s doctors, nurses and other health workers, known as first responders, who have taken care of Covid-19 patients.” 

“We are passing the baton to the Health Department, and beginning a transition—hand in hand, in a united effort—aimed at co-existing with the virus until a vaccine is available,” Segundo added.

The Health Department reported Thursday morning that 12 people had died from Covid-19, pushing the number of related deaths to 512. Furthermore, the number of confirmed infection cases rose to 17,248 while the number of probable cases increased to 19,031.

See the press conference on La Fortaleza’s Facebook page.

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