Last Tuesday, Donald and Melania Trump jetted into San Juan, Puerto Rico, supposedly to survey the situation. He held court with Commonwealth, Local and Federal officials, in which he did most of the talking. During the photo-op, he reminded the People of Puerto Rico that they were lucky not to have suffered a Real Hurricane, like Katrina in 2005.
The Federal Government has failed miserably to respond to the needs of the American Citizens who live on Puerto Rico, as well as the US Virgin Islands. But Donald Trump, in his delusion, boasted of what a great job he and his Regime had done.
Then, Trump also suggested that the clean-up—skipping over the immediate need for basic human needs—will cost his budget quite a lot of money. Wouldn’t that be an issue for him to take up with Congress, rather than with people who have nothing—few working ATMs to get cash, nothing available to buy, and no jobs!
Donald and Melania then traveled ten miles from San Juan, to a very upscale, gated community, where there was only negligible damage. If the Trump convoy had only traveled another ten miles, where the average Puerto Ricans live, he would have seen the real horror that is Puerto Rico, and no doubt the Virgin Islands, today!
As U. S. Citizens, the residents of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are free to migrate to the Mainland. Florida has one million Puerto Ricans, only surpassed by New York; however, many of those (up north) had arrived several decades back.
Florida, on the other hand, has become a mecca for Hispanics—predominately in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale—but, 500,000 Puerto Ricans also live along the I-4 Corridor, the East-West highway, connecting Tampa, Orlando and Cape Canaveral.
The major Florida air and seaports each have processing centers, to provide for the basic humanitarian needs for the new arrivals, and to offer a voluntary health screening to determine what, if any, health care needs the incoming Puerto Ricans might need. Consider some of the problems which need to be identified:
1. Besides the voluntary Q & A screenings at arrival points, all health care providers, as well as social service workers and educators are encouraged to identify problems to be referred to doctors or hospitals.
2. In the aftermath of violent storms: bacterial infections; puncture wounds; and diseases spread by mosquitos and animal bites can be harmful, and even contagious.
3. Some chronic conditions, such as flu and scabies, can become chronic conditions when not treated due to a lack of power. They can also spread easily in communal shelters.
4. Herpes B is of particular risk due to the release of a group of captive macaque monkeys in Puerto Rico during the storm, and they could spread the disease through bites and scratches.
With the predominance of senior citizens and children on the island, the usual conditions of dehydration, malnourishment, head wounds, fatigue and depression should also be considered.
Unlike major hurricanes on the Mainland, there are no major highways available to bring supplies and assistance overnight. Also, the San Juan International Airport was not fully operational. With SOUTHCOM, the military command having responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean located in Miami, just 1,100 miles from Puerto Rico, a military airlift would have been relatively simple.
Over the past several decades, as major corporations had closed their facilities, many of the younger workers had moved to the Mainland. With an inordinately older, non-working population of 3.4 million, just half of what it had been, Puerto Rico no longer needs some of the infrastructure and utility capacity financed by Commonwealth and Utility bonds. The debt service, however, continues to be due and payable!
Last Thursday, Donald Trump’s trip was choreographed, so that he would only see what he wanted to see, speak with whom he wanted to speak, and basically confirm what he already “knew” to be true. Unfortunately, the horrific devastation—both currently and it’s lasting after-effects—were just not on his agenda.
For a more in-depth description of the potential long-lasting effects of Hurricane Maria, on Puerto Rican’s Health, these recent articles–from the Miami Herald, and The New York Times–provide on-site descriptions.