June 12, 2021

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Medical Task Force would recommend that travelers present a negative test to enter the island

Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced's consulting medical team, in the midst of the crisis by COVID-19 would recommend the implementation on the island of a system similar to that announced by the government of Hawaii that, As of August 1, travelers will be required to have a negative test to enter the country and not be subject to the mandatory quarantine.

Although the discussion of the measures to be presented to Vázquez Garced has been informal, the infectious disease Jorge Santana said that, on the island, a program will have to be implemented that requires the delivery of a negative molecular test result, carried out in the previous 72 hours, as a requirement to enter the country.

In the absence of the test, he added , they would be required to remain in a supervised quarantine for 14 days or to have a molecular test between three and five days after arrival and provide the result to the Health Department. "This is very preliminary because we are still in talks," said the doctor, who belongs to the consulting team.

Santana recognized, however, that in order for the proposal to reduce the probability of infection, the Health Department would have to provide the resources to guarantee effective contact tracking an action that, more than three months after the curfew, is a challenge for the agency.

On Tuesday, the governor announced that she would impose a requirement for entry into the country through airports carrying out the test to detect COVID-19, but on Wednesday it seemed to back down when saying that it was an “opinion”, which would be consulted with the medical and economic team.

Santana He maintained that the performance of the test to detect COVID-19 to every passenger that enters the country, logistically is impossible. "It is not feasible … in Puerto Rico we are doing an average of 2,000 daily tests, how are you going to do 3,000 or 4,000 daily tests at the airport, that is impossible," he stressed.

Currently, at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the National Guard runs the screening station available to all people who arrive on the island, including the possibility of voluntarily having both serological and diagnostic tests done.

These measures would reduce the probability of outbreaks being reported by COVID-19 like the one recently reported in the town of Guayanilla related to a traveler who arrived from Philadelphia.

Other states, besides Hawaii, announced similar measures. On Wednesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel notice that imposes a quarantine period of 14 days on anyone arriving from states with high rates of coronavirus. These limitations would, at the moment, affect travelers from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

For the also infectologist Carlos Estévez Vélez, the proposal implemented by Hawaii is, what I would call, a "happy medium". Still, he said, it is not a measure that guarantees that no infected person enters the country.

"You came with a test, but if you come from a 'hot spot' like Florida and Texas, with which you get negative does not mean you are negative. This solves, perhaps, quite a few cases, but there are cases where the incubation period is long and people present symptoms very late, "said the expert.

He argued that resources must be identified to enforce those requirements that are imposed in the new executive order that is still unknown when it will be presented by the governor.

“We must emphasize what will happen on those days, how the passengers in quarantine will be monitored, how they will be isolated or where they will go. . We know that many people come to visit relatives who are high-risk people, "said Estévez Vélez.

" How, after all, this is done is going to have to be a negotiation and I would like the singing voice to be the Medical 'task force', "he acknowledged.

He added that the great challenge, in addition to defining how to comply with the provisions, are the effects that not having effective execution could have. "We know it is the strainer. The airport is Achilles' heel, our weak point, "he noted.

We must act with care

The resident commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González, maintained that any state measure to control or limit the entry of Passengers to the island must be studied by the Department of Justice, since it is a federally regulated area as it is an interstate trade issue.

"It is up to the local authorities to make that assessment and give their input to the governor so that when the decision to be taken is made, it can be made based on what is right in law, " said.

González indicated that the Transportation Committee of the Congress, to which he belongs, is evaluating the regulations that the airlines are imposing. "What this means is that Congress is going to be taking action on this," he said.

The commissioner stressed, however, on citizen responsibility. "If you test positive and are sick, you have to comply with not exposing the rest of the population and, in that, the government does have jurisdiction to protect citizens," he said.

González's expressions occurred during the inauguration of the flood control project for the northern part of the Quebrada Margarita canal in San Juan with an investment of $ 18.5 million.

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