González-Vázquez-COVID Seen in this file picture are González and Vázquez, who traveled to New York last week to meet with members of the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to negotiate coverage for 200,000 additional people under Plan Vital.
Image courtesy of La Fortaleza.

The two government officials recently visited New York. This week they were working on new measures to tackle the pandemic on the island. 

Lorenzo González, Puerto Rico Health Department secretary, confirmed on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 after taking a molecular test. 

“Responsibly, I will be in isolation for the time recommended by the Department of Health’s office of epidemiology,” González said in a written statement. “In addition, I offered information about the people I was with in the past few days, so that the corresponding contact tracing begins.”

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On Tuesday, González met with Gov. Wanda Vázquez. Both were part of the meetings conducted by several officials and experts to discuss new pandemic-response measures to be implemented by executive order starting Oct. 17. The current order expires the day before. 

González and Vázquez had traveled to New York last week to meet with members of the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to negotiate coverage for 200,000 people under Plan Vital, the government health insurance plan. 

According to the governor’s spokesperson, Mariana Cobián, Vázquez has been tested for COVID twice since arriving from her trip, which also included a stop in Florida. One of the tests was performed after finding out about González’ positive test result. She tested negative both times.

Because Vázquez met with González on Tuesday, she went into quarantine and canceled all her in-person meetings for the week.

Cobián said the governor will continue to work and hold meetings virtually. The spokesperson also informed that the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, is being disinfected as indicated by health protocols.

Puerto Rico is currently dealing with alarming numbers of coronavirus infection.

As of Thursday, the Health Department reported 27,947 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 28,138 possible cases. The island’s death toll is 743. Of those deaths, 562 are confirmed coronavirus deaths and 181 are from symptoms similar to a COVID infection. There are 354 people hospitalized.

Dr. Víctor Ramos, president of the Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons, warned on Wednesday that intensive care units are at 72% capacity. 

Ramos said, after a meeting in La Fortaleza on the new pandemic measures, that medical and economic sectors “have significant differences” in opinion regarding the next steps the government should impose to manage the spread of the virus. 

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The doctor said the economic sector seeks to increase capacity at restaurants and stores from 25% to 60%. Other recommendations from the sector include increasing business hours from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., reopening street-food stands (chinchorros), and expanding gym openings.

“The governor will have on hand recommendations from medical groups and recommendations from economic groups,” Ramos told various media outlets. “Obviously, [the economic sectors] are demanding a significant opening. We believe it should not be so. The differences are significant between one position and the other.”