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Is Puerto Rico Open for Tourism? Part 2 of 2

Puerto Rico's Current COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

In Part 1 of this article investigative reporter Alex Martinez Rivera was explaining the confusion around the current Puerto Rico COVID-19 travel restrictions. Putting the Puerto Rican authorities on the spot, here is the conclusion, Part 2:

Comparing Hawaii with Puerto Rico’s approach to travel restrictions

Hawaii is preparing for its COVID-19 travel restrictions-model for September 1st. What made Puerto Rico so sure it could successfully implement its plans so quickly?

I’m sure that New York and Hawaii experienced hiccups when preparing their own COVID-19 pilot programs. Florida was in the same situation during the time that New York was the COVID epicenter of the world.

I’m proud that Puerto Rico is emulating other jurisdictions, but if they want to follow suit (as my grandmother said to me),

“emulate the right way or do nothing at all.”

Hawaii’s current protocols on arrival are a mandatory 14-day quarantine with no exceptions until September 1st, 2020. After that, they will try for the approach utilizing the negative molecular coronavirus test.

If Hawaii wasn’t sure of this model, maybe Puerto Rico needed more time to prepare as well?

However, sometimes being first isn’t a recipe for success. Perhaps it was Puerto Rico’s time for a compulsory quarantine?

Puerto Rico needs a better coordination of COVID-19 travel restrictions

If Puerto Rico’s travel restrictions want to emulate Hawaii or New York, then please have resources, coordination, and planning in place first!

Puerto Rico can’t shift its responsibility of COVID-planning, as many states did. Planning and Coordination among the different agencies surely eliminated most strategic problems for the states.

Bolstering the health safety of the island would require better coordination and planning. Doing this type of COVID-19 measures is something that requires time, preparedness, and coordination.

For example, the Government of Puerto Rico can’t leave its airports and the airlines to their own devices!

You can see the result of the poor planning and coordination from the Twitter-feed below:

A crowd of people would increase the probability of having an asymptomatic person having COVID and spreading it to other people.

Here’s the translation of the Twitter-feed below, tweeted by Puerto Rico’s radio station WKAQ 580:

Citizens denounce jamming of passengers who arrived this afternoon from Florida, Boston, and New Jersey to the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in San Juan.

It is the government’s responsibility to safeguard the well-being of its residents. In addition, it also falls on the individual to protect him/herself and their immediate family.

This reminds me of the Zika Virus when U.S. Authorities placed a caution-note on travel to Puerto Rico

Department of State and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) currently have a Puerto Rico travel alert of level 4 and level 3, respectively.

The only travelers Puerto Rico can receive without COVID-19 travel restrictions is from the Dominican Republic.

It reminds me of when the CDC placed a travel alert to Puerto Rico because of the Zika Virus. At that time the local government blamed the U.S. for fearmongering citizens to travel.

Discover Puerto Rico has many things to answer

Discover Puerto Rico is the Destination Marketing Organization entrusted on marketing the island to the United States and overseas.

I would like them to answer my questions. They are welcome to contact me for an interview if desired.

Federal special state funds budget
The budget allocation from FOMB for the fiscal year 2020-2021. Found on the bottom of page 160 of the budget,
Credit: Federal Oversight Management Board.

There isn’t a video of travelsafe.pr.gov. Why is it that with $29 million in the 2020-2021 budget, there isn’t one (a video) explaining in detail how to submit the information?

DMO home page
There is only a little banner across the website of Discover Puerto Rico (the Destination Marketing Organization). Credit: Discover Puerto Rico.

Or, why not replace the homepage of the DMO with the information required to inform passengers? Why can’t they become proactive and think of possible barriers to the information? What is up now isn’t enough to dissuade.

Lastly, why isn’t an ad campaign with actors or a spokesperson explaining why Puerto Rico is closed, or a series of videos on YouTube disseminated through social media? Isn’t that “your” preview? Because being quiet doesn’t let the problem go away on its own.

My political nose tells me that this “blame-game” will continue and will serve as an excuse for the posture of candidates for the upcoming primaries and elections in Puerto Rico.

What is the Puerto Rico government trying to accomplish?

I don’t believe that Discover Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, nor the Health Department is up to the task to receive the influx of passengers yet. At least not without compromising the hospital infrastructure!

Aiming as the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to receive tourism requires:

  • Planning and Coordination among all parties
  • People knowledgeable with contact tracing
  • Resources to enforce the quarantine rules (being technology or people)
  • A framework of the private sector, government, and political will to co-exist with COVID. The U.S. latest trends show that it isn’t happening.

The latest trend in Puerto Rico is the COVID is on the upside on the island. I canceled my trip on March 17th and I decided not to return until I have a vaccine, since I’m not risking catching the virus.

The Caribbean island should do its own legislation to help the hospitality industry. But, if the government doesn’t get its act together, the next entry point for a sharp jump in cases, serving as a new launch point for rampant COVID-19 spread, will be Puerto Rico!

Puerto Rico is like those Wild West Movies of the past

Five days after the governor reimposed the airport opening until August 15, this happened on the airport grounds:

Twitter translation:

Flight at SJU Airport, Puerto Rico – The Spirit plane was on its way to Philadelphia, but the pilot returned to Puerto Rico because a passenger felt ill. The tourist did not want to get off and other passengers were bothered by the delay, according to the police.

Fight in San Juan Airport! Terminal B around Gate 2. Credit: @Motinsitepegas
Caution: Some explicit language, discretion when watching it

While the Executive Order establishes that anyone without a molecular test must be quarantined. There is a caveat:

The Spirit Airlines flight 687 was a flight departure bound to Philadelphia as a destination. Different accounts point to a problem with a tourist that didn’t want to deplane. Other passengers inside the plane were bother but some were more bothered than most ending in the fight.

While the local police intervened, the passengers involved didn’t want medical assistance nor helped with the investigation.

Discover Puerto Rico still haven’t changed their ways

In response to the fight at the airport, the Destination Marketing Authority place a Travel Advisory and added it change the language of the page. In order to discourage the influx of passengers of Puerto Rico. I don’t believe it will make a dent.

It seems that the government of Puerto Rico is utilizing the chaos to position themselves politically

Author’s Opinion

The Government of Puerto Rico, under its Governor, rolled back some of the reopenings of the island as of this past week.

Some of those rollbacks were:

  • The Government asked the FAA to continue the use of the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan.
  • The Governor asked for flight restrictions from Florida and Texas (that won’t happen).
  • Delayed the re-opening to August 15th (Airport Operations never closes unless the FAA issues a ground stop).
  • Tourist promotions are delayed until August 15th, theaters closed, and transport of tourists to the islands of Vieques and Culebra becomes suspended until further notice.
  • A curfew is in effect between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am.
  • Beaches closed for sun tanning and get-togethers, but open to sports like surfing, paddle boating, sailing, or movement-activities such as walking and running.

The government did this to create an image showing that the government is in control.

The truth is they don’t know what they are doing!

If you wish to communicate with Alex Martinez Rivera, please contact him here.

Featured Image: Entrance to San Juan Port.

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