Puerto Rico acknowledges missteps as coronavirus peak looms

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Laundromat owner Jesus Vazquez pauses before closing his shop to comply with the government's curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus, which is shuttering all non-essential businesses for two weeks in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday, March 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico's newest health secretary on Wednesday acknowledged a series of mistakes the government has committed as the U.S. territory prepares for a peak in coronavirus cases.

Lorenzo González, who is the third health secretary to serve in the span of two weeks, said the missteps include a lack of contact tracing and improper tracking of those who have tested positive.

“The process was deficient,” he said. “Nobody along those lines of command did what was prudent.”

González also said two hospitals, including one previously designated to receive coronavirus patients, will be investigated and fined for recently refusing to accept a patient presenting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Puerto Rico has reported 11 deaths and more than 280 confirmed cases.

González warned the U.S. territory is still awaiting items including ventilators and protective equipment, noting that it’s competing with the U.S. mainland: “There is no guarantee any of that equipment will arrive.”

The lack of protective equipment has become a significant concern for law enforcement officials across the island.

Puerto Rico on Wednesday closed its fifth police station in a week, raising concerns about the U.S. territory's ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic as officers accused the government of exposing one of the largest police departments in a U.S. jurisdiction to COVID-19.

More than 150 officers are under quarantine amid a month long curfew that has shuttered beaches, parks and non-essential businesses.