What You Need To Know About Puerto Rico And Coronavirus This Week


AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

By Mivette Vega

May 1, 2020

As Puerto Ricans try to survive the economic crisis now aggravated by the pandemic, an earthquake woke up the islander’s fears of losing everything once again this weekend.

Puerto Rico’s seventh week of a curfew put in place to help to prevent the spread of COVID–19 has been full of restlessness and uncertainty.

The economic and social impacts of the pandemic are more evident, as COVID-19 cases continue to arise. There are more of 1,500 positive cases and the death toll is 97 as of May 1st.

Here’s what you need to know about Coronavirus this week on the island:

1. An Eased Curfew – Friday night, Governor Wanda Vázquez addressed the Island — via a recorded message from La Fortaleza — to inform that a lockdown with fewer restrictions will be put in place starting May 5. A partial reopening will include sectors like finance, real estate, and professional services like lawyers and accountants. On May 11, construction and manufacturing will be allowed to restart. Other businesses that can reopen soon on weekdays will include laundromats, moving services, and technicians that repair elevators and air conditioning units. The curfew will be extended until May 25th. Families will be allowed to go outside to run, bike, and walk their dogs from 5 AM to 3 PM. Parks, gyms, and beaches will remain closed, and everyone — except essential workers — is ordered to stay home from 7 PM. to 5 AM. The eased lockdown will begin the same week when a spike of positive cases is expected, according to the Secretary of Health, Lorenzo González. The end of Vázquez’s recorded message became viral when people realized that its last seconds included the governor taking a deep breath and shaking her legs and arms as a sign of relief at the end of her speech.

RELATED: The Reason Why Puerto Rico Police Arrested an Activist for Feeding Poor People

2. Non-Essential Workers Are Growing Desperate – The problems for those claiming unemployment benefits continue despite the opening of a call center with more capacity. Daily protests of hundreds of people on social media are taking place since March. On Wednesday, Vázquez visited the Department of Labor without previous notice. She said she wanted to check first-hand what it’s the process like for those filing for unemployment. After the visit, the governor said the agency’s system is simply too old, promised to invest in a modern one to streamline the process.

3. The Arrival of the $1,200 Stimulus Checks – After days of uncertainty, as Puerto Ricans don’t know when they will receive the stimulus checks, Vázquez announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Treasury approved the guidelines submitted by Departamento de Hacienda to start distributing the checks. “After many conversations and data exchanges with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Treasury, we have the approval of the guidelines that will be used to hand out that aid to Puerto Ricans,” the governor said via Twitter. Vázquez said that Hacienda will be in charge of identifying citizens and disbursing federal allocation, estimated at roughly $3 billion. Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Treasury, Francisco Parés had previously informed that the checks would be deposited first, to those taxpayers that had filed their income tax return in 2019.

4. Answer to Grassley – On Monday, April 27th, Vázquez answered the letter than the Republican Senator and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, sent to her on April 20th. Grassley demanded detailed information on a few government scandals since the governor took office. Vázquez replied with an eight-page letter defending her administration’s handling of the pandemic. She also provided confidential information about the multimillion-dollar rapid testing kits scandal. The governor accused the opposition of trying to “tarnish” the island’s reputation on Capitol Hill. “Your comments appear to have been inspired by individuals with a personal agenda who seek to tarnish Puerto Rico’s reputation… It is particularly troubling that your allegations come at a time of great distress in Puerto Rico and the world when precious time and resources should be used to address our collective humanitarian crisis,” reads the letter. She also accused the Oversight Board of creating unnecessary “controversies” and  participating “in unnecessary letter-writing campaigns while creating delays and inefficiencies that could easily be resolved with a phone call.”

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