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Gov. Vázquez declares state of emergency in Puerto Rico due to COVID-19 alert

Gov. Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency to activate the Puerto Rico National Guard, which, in conjunction with the Health Department, will screen passengers at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in San Juan, as well as the air facilities in Aguadilla, Ponce and Ceiba.

She also cancelled events that draw massive crowds scheduled from Mar. 13-31, or until necessary as a result of the global situation regarding the coronavirus.

“It is important to be proactive and cancel any event that brings citizens together and that may represent a risk of contagion. At times like this, prevention is our best tool,” she said during a news conference at the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza.

In a separate, but related statement, Ports Authority Interim Executive Director Joel A. Pizá-Batiz confirmed that the agency will step up security measures at the cargo piers.

Ports will not allow of cargo ship crew members, regardless of where they come from, to go ashore while on the island. He said the order came from Vázquez.

Similar guidelines have already been implemented for cargo ships from the Dominican Republic, and are now expanded to include all cargo vessels, regardless of the country of origin, he said.

Regarding private employers, Vázquez said it will be recommended that they establish work plans so that, in this situation, employees who are able to, may work from home or on interlocking scheduled to avoid exposure of possible contagion, and the government will also evaluate that possibility.

During the news conference she also announced:

  • Citizens needing to renew their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations that expire Mar. 30 will have until April 30 to do so. La Fortaleza will issue an executive order so that the compulsory insurance covers any incidents even if it has expired. Drivers will not be subject to fines related to expired licenses or vehicle registrations during the established period.
  • Vázquez urged citizens to file their tax returns online, as well as conduct any other business with the Treasury Department through its website or over the phone. Treasury will grant a moratorium on tax return filings until May 15.
  • Anyone needing Family, Housing, and Health Department certifications that are requested by Treasury, will be cleared of the requirement. Medicaid will also extend its eligibility for 30 days to all government health plan patients under the “Vital” plan, and WIC will advance checks for three months, she said.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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