Puerto Ricans Still Unable To Test Coronavirus Locally. The Economy Already Feeling Its Side Effects

Image via Mivette Vega for The Americano

By Cristy Marrero

March 13, 2020

With almost 20 cases reported in less than a week, Governor Wanda Vázquez still awaits for the CDC to confirm the results of the first two samples, sent four days ago.

Four days after the Puerto Rican government submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the samples taken from the first two suspicious cases of infection with COVID – 19 in the island, Puerto Rico still didn’t know the results of those or any of the 17 suspected cases reported as of today.

Wanda Vázquez, the Governor of Puerto Rico, described as “unacceptable” the delay of the CDC to deliver the results of the first suspected cases, a 68-year-old Italian woman that arrived on Sunday on a cruise ship, and her husband. 

“We have to have control of the tests, and of the possible spread of this disease. We’ve had a long conversation with the CDC because it is unacceptable that as of this time we do not have the results of the first tests. As governor, I will not allow the CDC to continue delaying the results and our ability to test in our jurisdiction. So in that phone call, I told them that I demand, as governor, that these 3.2 million Puerto Ricans that live in the uncertainty of the result of those tests, and the ones we could have in the future, that they let us do those tests in Puerto Rico. So I demand that the CDC deals with this situation as soon as possible for the benefit of the Puerto Rican people”, said Vazquez.

Later yesterday, Rafael Rodríguez, Secretary of Public Health, said that after the conversation with the CDC, the island’s Health Department will be able to analyze tests for coronavirus within the next 24 to 48 hours to determine whether tests are positive or negative. 

There are still no updates from the office of the Governor that confirm any changes in the CDC protocol with Puerto Rican cases. 

Even though there’s no official confirmation of a positive case if COVID-19 in Puerto Rico yet, Vázquez said it is very important to continue taking some necessary measures to protect the island’s population against an imminent outbreak. 

As a preventive move, the Governor declared the island under a state of emergency yesterday, in order to be able to activate the National Guard. The medical unit of the National Guard will be in charge of the evaluation of every passenger that arrives in Puerto Rico from the United States.

Vazquez also asked people to avoid massive public gatherings and urged government officials and employees to stay home if they have any symptoms.

She also encouraged government agencies and private companies to implement a “work from home” policy for their employees.

The governor approved an extension on the April 15th tax deadline. This will allow citizens to file their taxes no later than May 15th. 

The Inevitable Economic Impact on Local Businesses

Even though for citizens and visitors it is still unknown if there’s a positive case of Coronavirus already on the island, on Thursday the threat of the novel virus was more palpable.

While thousands of residents were stocking up on all kinds of supplies and food, the usually busy streets of Old San Juan were empty.

Image via Mivette Vega for The Americano
Old San Juan welcomes over 15,000 tourists daily. This street is typically packed with pedestrians and shoppers.

Thursday is typically the busiest day of the whole week thanks to the arrival of the cruise ships. But yesterday, the desolation on those streets was shocking.

“Almost overnight there are no people here. There are just people from 18 to 25 years old, spring breakers. There are no tourists. There really is no cruise business. Today, most stores are closing early”, said Natalia García, an employee of a jewelry shop on Fortaleza Street.

On the same street, two young employees, wearing gloves, were trying to convince customers to come to the cosmetics store, Gold Elements.

Image via Mivette Vega for The Americano.
 Jennifer Bialski and Idan Levi trying to convince people to come into their store while wearing protective gloves.

“Now they are just passing. It is harder to stop them because they’re scared to get infected. There’s not too much public hysteria like we’ve seen in other countries”, said Jennifer Bialski, one of the employees.

Image via Mivette Vega for The Americano.
One of the main commercial streets.

“We are using a lot of sanitizer, gloves, and masks when we approach a person, and we are cleaning the entire store. We are ready for anything because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody is ready for something like that, but we weren’t prepared for Hurricane Maria, we weren’t prepared for the protests (against former Governor Ricardo Rosselló), and we were not ready for the earthquakes. Yet, we handled all of that, so let’s wait and see what happens”, said Bialski.

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CATEGORIES: Coronavirus | Puerto Rico

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