Recommendations for Gradually Reopening the Economy
SAN JUAN — The coronavirus task force appointed by Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez presented its recommendations to reactivate the economy, establishing parameters to be met to go through each of the three phases.
The document reportedly establishes that Puerto Rico’s healthcare system could only operate without overloading itself with a 12% risk of community-acquired infection. The document indicates that the risk of infection is currently between 6% and 8%.
“We estimate that we can maintain the same (trend) at less than 12%, if we continue with the recommended measures for a staggered opening,” the document reads.
The recommendations were developed using prediction models with the population exposed to COVID-19, using fatalities and the first case of death from community transmission of coronavirus (not from a traveler).
“These models made it possible to estimate the utilization of hospital services, intensive care unit rooms (ICUs) and necessary ventilators, and helped guide the needs of medical services to serve the number of patients with COVID-19 who would require ICU / ventilator services,” the document reads.
The experts clarify that “it is important to emphasize that the current infection risk of 6-8% is the result of the lockdown and does not represent what would happen outside the physical-social distancing created by the lockdown. Therefore, the staggered opening following the physical-social distancing measures recommended by the Medical Task Force after the lockdown are vital to maintain an operational health system capable of caring for all people who will become infected as part of the COVID-19 epidemic.”
The specific recommendations follow:
BUSINESS OR INDIVIDUAL SECTOR STRATEGIES FOR ECONOMIC REOPENING
- The reopening process establishes a new social and work norm with an estimated duration of 18-24 months.
- As long as there are NO effective treatments or a vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19, the new social and work norm will include physical distancing, which will have an impact on our daily life and way of carrying out economic activities.
- During each phase of reopening, entrepreneurs, business owners, customers and the public should receive guidance on all the modifications that will have to be adopted in order to carry out economic activity while maintaining the recommendations for physical-social distancing and sanitary measures.
- When the opening of a sector or the transition to a phase has caused a notable increase in the risk of infection or when health services are approaching the capacity limit, it will be necessary to stop or delay the reopening plan, or a new lockdown period may be required until the requirements of STAGE 2 are met again.
- It is vital that each employer, administrator and supervisor evaluate the functions of their employees, the interaction between them, and their customers to develop and implement the measures needed to protect customers and employees based on risk, type of contact and modifiable behavior.
- It is recommended that a government agency be designated to be responsible for evaluating the reopening plan for each type of company or business.
- Sanitary brigades must be established in the municipalities to disinfect public areas.
- The opening of the various economic sectors must be guided by the risk of infection and fatality for employees in that sector of economic activity.
The economic activities recognized as essential services (such as supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, hospital medical services, among others) will continue open following the social distancing measures and use of personal protection equipment.
Some of those protocols specify guidelines for different services that may be adaptable to different scenarios. See them at: https://COVID-19tf.rcm.upr.edu/. You can also find additional information at: https://rcm2.rcm.upr.edu/COVID-19/. Additional references from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be evaluated on their respective web pages.
- Maximize remote work in all industries that allow it, and the number of employees in closed spaces should be reduced, promoting alternate days and hours of face-to-face and remote work. This should include the possibility of using Saturday and Sunday shifts structured according to the norms and rules that exist or are modified in discussion with the endorsement of the Department of Labor during this emergency.
- In the Entertainment and Recreation sector, cinemas and theaters could represent favorable conditions for the spread of the virus, so its reopening is not recommended at this time. Similarly, concerts, festivals and activities should not be encouraged until there is a vaccine, treatment or sufficient group immunity.
- In the Accommodation and Restaurants sector, the possibility of limiting the maximum capacity of facilities to guarantee physical distance and hygiene measures should be evaluated. In the specific case of lodging, it would be recommended that communal areas (gyms, swimming pools, activity rooms, ballrooms, etc.) remain closed. The use of food delivery to the rooms is encouraged.
- Recognizing that educational services entail greater risk than other economic sectors, school and university activities will be the last to be integrated into the reopening plan. Thus, parents will most likely have to re-enter the work environment while children and adolescents are still out of school and their extracurricular activities. Entrepreneurs and business owners should note that employees with school-age children will benefit from continuing to perform their jobs remotely, when possible.
In all cases, a daily evaluation through an interview and taking their temperature should be conducted so no employee goes to work with symptoms. Customers will be evaluated as well. If symptoms are present, the person will be asked to go into isolation and be tested.
Example submitted by a business subsector as a plan for reopening that is consistent with the recommendations to decrease the transmission of the disease.
Distancing Example # 1:
Car Rental Business:
- Only one (1) customer will be served at a time, either for rental or repair services.
- Customers or visitors without masks will not be allowed.
- People must ensure six feet of distance between them at all times. Indicators on the ground are ideal for promoting distance.
- Before a customer is attended, they must disinfect or wash their hands.
- All vehicles will be disinfected before and after each rental.
- Personnel must wear a face mask at all times.
- Before beginning work and periodically, employees should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use disinfectant gel.
- Employees must keep 6 feet of distance between each person, inside the office or in any space.
- The use of technological means (telephone, email, texts) for communication should be encouraged.
- Employees must clean and disinfect their work areas upon arrival and before completing their work using the available products: disinfectants, masks, gloves or face shields.
- Only one (1) customer will be served at a time. All customers must have an appointment.
- Customers or visitors without masks will not be allowed at any time.
- Customers must remain in their vehicle until called and attended.
- While their vehicle is in the shop, customers must wait in the designated area, keeping a distance of six feet between people.
- The business must have products available for disinfection of common areas of high traffic or continuous contact and establish regular cleaning and disinfection shifts during the workday.
The complete plan (in Spanish)
Read the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security report: Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors.
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