DR1 Daily News - Wednesday, 1 April 2020


May 3, 2000
1,109 cases, up from 901; the breakdown of Covid-19 cases in the DR
President Medina names Amado Alejandro Báez his health sector advisor
Government is preparing for a coronavirus volunteers service
Government provides special incentive for public servants facing COVID-19
La Vega spike of cases motivates Public Health Minister to speculate total lockdown may be required
What’s with the Luis Aybar hospital complex that would have been inaugurated soon?
Gonzalo to the rescue of San Francisco de Macorís?
Politics or public health? Government announces monopoly on the distribution of test kits just when opposition party brings in shipment
Babies DO catch Covid-19
Roberto Santana: Close off San José de Ocoa!
Shutdown of the Mercado Nuevo market in Santo Domingo
Punta Catalina still not fully interconnected to the national energy grid

1,109 cases, up from 901; the breakdown of Covid-19 cases in the DR
There are 1,109 reported cases of Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic as of 6pm on 31 March 2020. Of these, 127 are hospitalized, 926 in home care, five have tested negative and sent home and 51 have died, for a 5% fatality rate. The Ministry of Public Health says that of 3,255 tests reported to the National Epidemiology Surveillance System (SINAVE), 2,146 were negative. Testing is still very limited in the country, with long waiting lists even in the cases of persons with apparent symptoms.

Bulletin 12 of the Ministry’s Epidemiology Directorate-General reports an increase of 208 cases, and 9 new deaths. Provinces where new cases are reported are: National District, Santo Domingo province, Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís), Espaillat (Moca), La Vega, María Trinidad Sánchez (Nagua), Puerto Plata, Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), Samaná, San Cristóbal, Sánchez Ramírez (Cotuí), Santiago, Valverde, Monseñor Nouel (Bonao) and Hato Mayor.

By place of residence, most of the cases are in the National District (42%) and the province of Santo Domingo (13%) that make up Greater Santo Domingo, followed by Santiago (11%) and Duarte (8%).

The breakdown of cases in the National District and the 31 provinces in order of number of cases is:
National District: 462 cases, 81 new cases, 9 deaths, including 4 new deaths
Santo Domingo province: 145 cases, 39 new cases, 5 deaths
Santiago: 122 cases, 25 new cases, 2 deaths
Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís): 90 cases, 7 new cases, 22 deaths
La Vega: 65 cases, 17 new cases, 2 deaths, including one new death
La Altagracia (Higuey, Veron, Punta Cana): 29 cases
Puerto Plata: 28 cases, 12 new cases
Espaillat (Moca): 22 cases, 7 new cases
La Romana: 21 cases
Monseñor Nouel (Bonao): 19 cases, 8 new cases, 1 death
San Pedro de Macorís: 18 cases, 1 new case
San Cristóbal: 13 cases, 4 new cases
Samaná: 12 cases, 1 death, 3 new cases
Hermanas Mirabal: 11 cases, 1 new case
Sánchez Ramírez (Cotuí): 10 cases, 1 new cases, 2 deaths
María Trinidad Sánchez (Salcedo): 6 cases, 2 new cases, 1 death
San Juan de la Maguana: 5 cases, 2 deaths
Valverde: 4 cases, 2 new cases
Barahona: 3 cases
Hato Mayor: 3 cases, 1 new case
Monte Plata: 1 case
Azua: 7 cases, 1 new case
Independencia: 1 case
Pedernales: 1 case

Provinces with no reported cases of Covid-19:
Bahoruco, Dajabón, Elías Piña, El Seibo, and San José de Ocoa.

The first case of Covid-19 was detected on 1 March 2020, just two weeks before a municipal election was scheduled and after a month of intense carnival partying. On 20 March the government declared a State of Emergency until 3 April 2020. The country is under a curfew and land crossings, seaports and airports are closed through 13 April. That same day is the expiration on the order of suspension of all educational activities.

Dr. Jorge Marte, the physician on the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus says that the country has not yet experienced the peak in cases, thus the special conditions and restriction measures are likely to be renewed.

31 May is the expiration date for the two-month assistance programs announced for Dominicans for food relief and welfare assistance.

The Ministry of Public Health continues to urge people stay at home, keep social distance, exercise maximum hygiene at the home and in vehicles, to not touch faces, and exercise self-isolation when having symptoms or having been in contact with persons who have tested positive or have symptoms. Supermarkets and banks are requiring that persons use facial masks to enter.

The Public Health Minister, Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas, has explained that people who present Covid-19 symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) should contact their physician. He says in most cases these patients are stable and don’t need testing or treatment, and are recommended to stay at home until their fever resolves, they stop coughing, and are asymptomatic. Most importantly, he stresses these people need to self-isolate to not spread the disease to family and friends.


President Medina names Amado Alejandro Báez his health sector advisor
President Danilo Medina appointed Dr. Amado Alejandro Báez as advisor to the Executive Branch on public health, disaster systems and mass emergencies and critical care. Dr. Báez joins Dr. Jorge Marte, medical director at Cedimat, who was recently recruited to be part of the High Commission for the Prevention of the Coronavirus.

Dr. Báez is a highly-awarded US influential healthcare systems expert. He has faculty appointments at Harvard University, the University of Barcelona and the University of Miami. Dr. Baez is a Mayo Clinic and Harvard-trained US Board Certified physician with graduate degrees in Public Health and Healthcare Management. In recent years he has become involved in efforts to position the Dominican Republic as a player in the medical tourism industry.

More details on Dr. Báez’s background are on his Linked In profile:
Professor and vice chairman at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University since July 2019. The college has a long history of providing medical training and operational support to law enforcement and the Department of Defense in the United States.

Member of the board of directors of the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association from September 2019.
Chief Success Officer for TraumaRD Vision 2020 in the Dominican Republic from September 2018. TraumaRD.org Vision2020 is a public-private partnership focused on developing a working agenda for trauma systems in the Dominican Republic.

Member of the Santo Domingo Health Cluster from April 2019. The entity seeks to create synergies taking advantage of competitiveness and quality of the health services in the province of Santo Domingo.
President & CEO of Healthcare Management Solutions (www.cghim.com). From 2011. This is a consulting and management firm located in Santo Domingo and Miami with a focus on integrated healthcare solutions and the medical tourism arm of Healthcare Management Solutions. HMS currently manages a network of four sites in Santo Domingo.

Faculty Harvard Affiliated Disaster Medicine Fellowship/ Dignitary Protective Medicine (DPM) Program since 2011. On his profile he explains that in 2008 he became the first Emergency Physician to serve as appointed member of the Harvard Medical School Committee on Continuing Medical Education.


Government is preparing a coronavirus volunteers service
Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas says the government expects to launch this week a National Coronavirus Volunteers Corps. The effort will organize all kinds of skilled persons who want to contribute to the war against the coronavirus.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas said that an application would facilitate joining the organization and would be launched on Wednesday, 1 April 2020.


Government provides special incentive for public servants facing Covid-19
The coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus, Gustavo Montalvo, said in his daily televised address on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 that a bonus of RD$5,000 would be added to the wages of government workers that are working during the health crisis. Beneficiaries would be personnel of the Ministry of Public Health, National Health Service, Promese/Cal, 911 System, Armed Forces, National Police and Center for Emergency Operations.

Montalvo, who is also the Presidency Minister, said that the bonus would be paid in April and May. Physicians and senior officers of the Armed Forces and the National Police would receive incentives of RD$10,000 for the two months for their contribution in the fight against the pandemic. "As you know, all these public servants are doing an extraordinary job in these exceptional circumstances and deserve to be rewarded for it," Montalvo said when making the announcement at the Presidential Palace.

The Minister of the Presidency also announced that the Ministry of Labor has authorized the Social Security Treasury not to apply surcharges or interest for late payments during the months of April and May to those employers who do not make the corresponding contributions for their employees on time.

"For the duration of the emergency period and up to 30 days after that, a waiver will be granted so that employers can register their workers without the escalation provided for in Resolution 471-02 of the National Social Security Council," said the coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus.

This measure will also apply to those who use the Employee Solidarity Assistance Fund (FASE) established by the government to support workers in this crisis.

Montalvo said that fast response tests are now available at one of the private labs as of the afternoon of Tuesday. He said priority will be given to medical staff, police and military that have been on duty during the present pandemic. He said Dominicans returning from abroad will also be given access to the tests.

He explained that the rapid response testing is an indicator that serves to make preliminary identifications and with this the health service can optimize time and resources. "They are a valuable tool in our struggle, but any result has to be confirmed by PCR testing,” he said.


La Vega spike of cases motivates Public Health Minister to speculate total lockdown may be required
When commenting on the spike in cases this week in the province of La Vega, Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas observed how the number of cases in La Vega had doubled in days. He remarked that the spike in cases indicates “people are not getting the message that they need to keep social distance.” “We are headed to stricter measures,” he said.

The Public Health Minister made the remark when reviewing the statistics of Bulletin 12 and answering to journalist questions on 31 March 2020.

Gustavo Montalvo, coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus, said that regardless of the measures taken, supermarkets and pharmacies will continue open as part of essential services.

The Police has arrested upwards of 20,000 persons for violation of the 5pm to 6am curfew.


What’s with the Luis Aybar hospital complex that would have been inaugurated soon?
Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas says that the government will begin to gradually habilitate hospitals in the Ciudad Sanitaria Luis Aybar, a mega hospital complex built by the Medina administration. He said the hospital has several intensive care units and ventilators that can be used for Covid-19 patients. The public health minister did not specify which and when these will be available to service patients. The National District, where the hospital is located, has 51% of the Covid-19 cases in the country.

He made the remark after investigative journalist Edith Febles had asked the minister during the Bulletin No. 12 coronavirus briefing what was the status of the health city. She recalled that the President had announced in his 27 February address that the Ciudad Sanitaria Luis Aybar would be inaugurated on 10 March. The announcement was followed by government propaganda on 28 February advertising that the Luis Eduardo Aybar Health City is made up of 12 hospital buildings with 55 surgery halls and more than 600 beds. Febles asked if that center was supposedly ready for 10 March, why was the government announcing it would rent private clinics to service patients with Covid-19?

In the same speech, Medina had boasted that Dominicans could go to any of the 86 new hospitals or diagnostics centers that “had nothing to envy of a private medical center.” The President also mentioned the Engombe public hospital in Santo Domingo West and the Vinicio Calventi in Los Alcarrizos and the Boca Chica public hospital. Recently, the Public Health Minister confirmed the navy base was being conditioned as an isolation center for Covid-19 patients in Boca Chica, but did not mention whether the renovated Boca Chica public hospital mentioned by the President Medina in his 27 February speech would open in time to serve the new demand for medical care.

Medina said in the 27 February speech that the José María Cabral y Báez Regional Hospital and the Arturo Grullón Hospital in Santiago would be ready before his term ends on 16 August. In Santiago, the government recently announced it would rent the Clinica Las Colinas to serve Covid-19 patients.

In his 27 February address, Medina also mentioned the San Francisco de Macorís Regional Hospital. In recent briefings, this hospital has not been mentioned by Public Health Minister Sánchez Cárdenas, who instead said the government was preparing the San Vicente de Paul public hospital. An investigative report by Alicia Ortega aired on 30 March showed that despite the optimism of the Public Health Minister, San Vicente de Paul hospital is not showing readiness to receive patients in need of intensive care.

Other new and renovated hospitals that would have been inaugurated before 16 August 2020, according to the President, are the Jaime Mota in Barahona, the Eduardo Musa in San Pedro de Macorís, the El Seibo public hospital, the Las Terrenas public hospital in Samaná, the Villa Hermosa public hospital in La Romana, the public hospital in Bonao and the public hospital in Neyba.

Economist Henri Hebrard had pointed out in a talk during the SaludHable initiative by the Association of Representatives of Pharmaceuticals (ARAPF) in December 2019 that the government had invested only 1.69% of GDP in the health sector. He said the National Development Strategy Law (End-2013) stipulated that the government invest 3.75% by 2019.


Gonzalo to the rescue of San Francisco de Macorís?
Ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo has sent in a team to disinfect the city of San Francisco de Macoris. The city has the highest number of victims of the Covid-19 disease. The PLD lost the city government to the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) in the 15 March municipal election. Mayor-elect Siquio Ng is ill with Covid-19.

As reported in the media, the fumigation falls under the social responsibility department of Helidosa, the air services company owned by the former Public Works Minister and current presidential candidate for the PLD.

The Ministry of Public Works has been sending crews to fumigate city areas where there are known cases of Covid-19 in home isolation.

Recently, Castillo also made headlines for helping Dominicans studying medicine in Cuba to return to the country after Cuba shut down its airports.

While Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo says that all donations of diagnostic kits for the Covid-19 need to be channeled by the government, photographs and videos of PLD presidential candidate surrounded by boxes of the new rapid response kit tests circulated widely on 31 March. The positive results of these tests need to be confirmed by PCR tests.

PRM candidate Luis Abinader had announced the purchase of 40,000 PCR diagnostic kits. With these scheduled to arrive on Friday, 3 April 2020, the Medina administration says that only the government may channel these to the public.


Politics or public health? Government announces monopoly on distribution of test kits just when opposition party brings in shipment
What is really going on that so few people have had access to testing for the Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic?

On 30 March 2020, the coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic, Gustavo Montalvo, welcomed donations but said that only the government is authorized to channel medical equipment and test kits for the Covid-19 in the country. Several entities have offered donations, including the largest opposition party, the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM).

Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas admitted on the televised briefing on the coronavirus on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 that the government has had difficulties with its national international medical suppliers for the procurement of the diagnostic test kits. The government has said it has sourced these from the Pan American Health Organization.

Sánchez Cárdenas called on the suppliers of the tests to contact the Ministry of Public Health or the government. "We call on national and international suppliers to contact the Ministry of Public Health or the High Commission appointed by the President of the Republic or the government, to help obtain the diagnostic kits we need in the country," he said. He made the statement upon releasing Coronavirus Bulletin No. 12 that shows 901 persons have tested positive, and there are 51 deaths. As of 6pm on 30 March 2020, 3,255 persons have been tested, according to the bulletin.

Congresswoman Josefa Castillo of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) says that the government seeks to take advantage of the coronavirus in the Dominican Republic to make policies in its favor. She criticized the announcement by the coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of the Coronavirus that donations of medicines and medical equipment to confront the pandemic in the country can only be made to the government. The PRM team has secured 40,000 diagnostic kits that are scheduled to arrive on Friday, 3 April 2020.

"I had said that the government would use Covid-19 to make policy in their favor. There it is: they have just prohibited donations not controlled by them, just when a shipment of 40,000 kits to test for the virus, donated by Luis Abinader/PRM, is coming in. A gov of phonies, INDOLENT," the legislator wrote in a message posted on her Twitter account @Josefacastillo.

Speaking on the La Cuestión radio talk show on 31 March 2020, Josefa Castillo said that PRM presidential candidate had proposed a united government task force be created but the party has not received a response from the Medina administration. “That's depriving the Dominican public of a benefit at a time like this. People are dying for lack of assistance because the government didn’t prepare, “ she said. She said the government is using the coronavirus in an attempt to stay in power, to suspend the elections if a situation of lack of governance would arise. She said instead there should be a government of national unity with the health of the people foremost.

PRM delegate to the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Orlando Jorge Mera has said that the measure announced recently whereby only the government can channel diagnostic kits was made specifically against that political party. He said it is “unacceptable.” The shipment with the 40,000 kits secured by the PRM will arrive on Friday. “The government

Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo said on Monday, 30 March that to avoid confusion all donations need to be channeled through official authorities.


Babies DO catch Covid-19
Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas confirmed in the press briefing on 31 March 2020 that a six-month old baby died of coronavirus in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, 28 March 2020. . The baby died at the Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital. Diario Libre reports the baby was from San Pedro de Macoris. It is not clear in which bulletin the death was included. The minister had been asked the question before in the daily press briefing but had not provided confirmation.

As reported, there is only one other case of a baby catching the virus, that of a baby in Chicago, Illinois.


Roberto Santana: Close off San José de Ocoa!
The president of the Dominican-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Roberto Santana, urged that the province of San José de Ocoa establish roadblocks at its five entry points so that it remains Covid-19 free. The province is just one of five where people have not yet tested positive for the fearful disease. Santana is a native of San José de Ocoa.

Santana is a former rector of the state university, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). He warned that given the rapid spread, San José Ocoa is now only a week or two away from having the disease as it is surrounded by five provinces with virus cases. Among these, La Vega has the fourth highest number of cases, with 50 cases, as of 6pm on 30 March 2020.

Santana supports a 24-hour curfew and containment barriers in all places identified with having medium and high infection levels, with the stop to land traffic between these areas and the rest of the country. He says if this is not done soon, “the fatalities will be in the thousands for many months to come.”

"From a few provinces that were infected a week ago, we have gone to 23, only 6 are missing and one of those 6 is Ocoa. When will it be our turn, and on whom does it depend if that happens or not?" asked the former UASD rector. He forecast all remaining provinces will be infected if radical steps are not taken now.

Santana said that the real answer is that the date for the virus to enter Ocoa province depends on the decision of the province's inhabitants themselves, as to whether or not to place an efficient barricade at the entry points.

With regards to whether a single province can protect itself and avoid being infected, Santana recalls that the first affected provinces, La Altagracia, La Romana and Greater Santo Domingo, were infected by foreigners who arrived via the airports of Punta Cana, La Romana and Las Americas. People arriving from abroad also brought the virus to the north, and spread it to Santo Domingo and the East. Santana said that the rest of the provinces were infected through local transmission and by leaders and politicians during the municipal election campaign. People in La Altagracia were also affected by a wedding carried out in that area.


Shutdown of the Mercado Nuevo market in Santo Domingo
City Mayor David Collado announced the shutdown of the Mercado Nuevo at Av. Duarte. The fresh produce market had been in operation since 1973. Thousands of persons congregated there daily, making it a significant focus of infection of the Covid-19.

Mayor David Collado said the shutdown is part of the World Health Organization protocols the country is following to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

He said the market would be closed for at least a week and intense sanitization efforts will be carried out. The government will carry out an evaluation before announcing the next steps.


Punta Catalina still not fully interconnected to the national energy grid
The Dominican Republic’s power regulator is giving the Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE) additional time to complete the operational tests required for the interconnection to the national grid, the National Interconnected Electrical System (SENI). The Presidency had announced the 752MW coal-fired Punta Catalina thermoelectric central would have been inaugurated on 16 March 2020. The new provisional interconnection permit expires on 15 June. A technical report from the Ministry of Energy and Mines says that the CDEEE has not been able to complete the operation tests required for its interconnection to the SENI.

The OC-SENI website reports that Punta Catalina has suffered fluctuations in February. BN Americas reports that OC metrics show that in the first two months of 2020, units 1 and 2 generated 360 GWh and 209GWh, respectively.