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Puerto Rico National Guard Adjutant General José Reyes.
Puerto Rico National Guard Adjutant General José Reyes. (Ricky Reyes Vázquez)

Puerto Rico National Guard Adjutant General José Reyes could not anticipate when they will begin screening passengers entering the island, as part of the government's efforts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

During a press conference at La Fortaleza, Reyes acknowledged that the National Guard will have to buy protective clothing for soldiers to perform the tests. The Puerto Rico National Guard will deploy 500 troops for 90 days that will represent $14 million to be identified by the Office of Management & Budget.

The basic criteria for referring any passenger entering the island will be a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

The operation includes the airports of Ceiba, Aguadilla, Ponce, and Luis Muñoz Marín in Carolina. Likewise, the Maritime Transport Authority's boat terminal and the port of San Juan, where people will be examined regardless of whether they arrive as passengers or in cargo ships.

"We are going to establish an evaluation system for arriving passengers. Those with more than 103 degrees Fahrenheit will go to a medical area where National Guard medical unit personnel will perform a more intensive evaluation, a 'triage', to evaluate the symptoms," he explained.

Reyes explained that if a possible case of coronavirus is detected, the passenger will be referred to a medical area that would be set up in these facilities. Then, the patient would be taken to the hospital assigned in coordination with Emergencias Médicas (Emergency Medical).

They will begin to identify spaces to set up the medical areas today. If there is no space available, then they will set up tents.

Reyes acknowledged that implementing the plan will require the purchase of equipment that is not available in Puerto Rico.

"All the equipment required is not available. We have limited equipment to begin operations," Reyes said, indicating that while the priority is the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, he also does not have an estimated time frame to begin screening the first passengers at that airport.

"It will be implemented in phases, starting with the airport (Luis Muñoz Marín)," he said. "But it will depend... I already have 15 buyers looking for suppliers at full blast. The equipment is sold out," he added, referring to temperature measuring devices and protective clothing.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Ports Authority, Joel Pizá, recalled that President Donald Trump´s order to restrict flights from Europe was coming into effect at midnight. This applies to Puerto Rico, however, U.S. citizens coming from Europe, residents, and those with visas may fly to American territory, he said.


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