Offbeat In Puerto Rico, a new hurricane season threatens the elderly

14:35  14 june  2018
14:35  14 june  2018 Source:   reuters.com

San Juan mayor: Trump administration ‘completely looked away’ over hurricane death toll

  San Juan mayor: Trump administration ‘completely looked away’ over hurricane death toll San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said that the Trump administration has "looked away" from Puerto Rico after a study found a significantly higher death toll from Hurricane Maria than was officially announced. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said that the Trump administration has "looked away" from Puerto Rico after a study found a significantly higher death toll from Hurricane Maria than was officially announced.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Signs of a slow-moving recovery are apparent in Puerto Rico six months after the territory was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes and two months before the next hurricane season begins.

“ Hurricane season is about to begin in Puerto Rico ,” Clinton continued. Perez, who parents were born on the island, slammed President Donald Trump for remaining “totally silent” on the new death-toll estimates, “yet but he is still tweeting about Roseanne Barr.

At 84 years old and battling cancer, Israel Gonzalez Maldonado has lived without electricity for the nine months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

His wife, Zoraida Reyes, 77, struggles to keep the house stocked with fresh food without a refrigerator. At night, she fans her husband so he can sleep.

At FEMA, Trump remained mum on new Puerto Rico death toll

  At FEMA, Trump remained mum on new Puerto Rico death toll President Donald Trump visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday, just over a week after a new Harvard study estimated more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico died in Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. But even as he was briefed on the upcoming hurricane season, the President remained mum on the new estimate, which dwarfs the government's official 64-person death toll. Instead, the President praised FEMA and other US officials, telling them they should be "very proud" of their work to beat back last year's devastating hurricane season.

Hurricane season typically runs from June 1 to November 30 in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean. This overlaps with peak travel dates during summer holidays for the kids and major national holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Maria’s Bodies. The hurricane in Puerto Rico has become a man-made disaster, with a death toll threatening to eclipse Katrina’s. The death toll began immediately: In the town of Utuado, a landslide came through the wall of a house where three elderly sisters had taken refuge, burying them alive.

With another hurricane season starting, older Puerto Ricans have little to protect them from another storm on an impoverished island that remains far from fully recovered. Younger and wealthier people have been moving away for years, leaving an older and sicker population in the hands of an underfunded healthcare system. Tens of thousands more have fled since Maria.

“We wish we could move, at least for the time he has left,” Reyes said of her husband.

Senior citizens make up a larger share of the population here than in all but four U.S. states, according to federal Census data. About half are disabled, more than any state.

Forty percent of seniors rely on food stamps, more than three times the percentage in New York state, the second-highest nationally.

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  Americans Question if Trump Cares for Hurricane Victims When asked how much Trump cares about the needs and problems of Hurricane Maria victims, the most common response in a new poll was "not at all."The survey asked, "How much do you think Donald Trump cares about the needs and problems of people affected by Hurricane Maria?" Fifty-four percent responded either "not much" or "not at all"—21 percent "not much" and 33 percent "not at all." According to YouGov, 46 percent thought Trump either cared "a lot" or "some" about the hurricane victims' needs—21 percent "a lot" and 25 percent "some.

“Everyone in Puerto Rico should follow advice from local officials to avoid life- threatening flooding from storm surge and rainfall.” Related. Hurricane season 2018: what scientists are predicting. The “marshmallow test” said patience was a key to success. A new replication tells us s’more.

Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and its economy, the daily indignities are piling up, especially for people who are frail or elderly . Many are finding their current economic straits nearly as threatening as the storm.

(For a graphic on Puerto Rico's aging population, see: https://tmsnrt.rs/2L9N6M0 )

Yet the island has just six nursing homes - with a total of 159 beds - that are certified by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to provide rehabilitative services.

Puerto Rico relies instead on a patchwork of about 800 nursing homes licensed by the island's Department of Family. They are typically private businesses or nonprofit organizations that care for small numbers of elderly people with limited services - and limited budgets, strained further since Maria.

A fragile healthcare system is hardly the only problem that leaves the elderly here - and all Puerto Ricans - vulnerable to another catastrophic storm.

About 7,000 houses and businesses still lack power, after Maria leveled a grid that was ill-maintained before the storm. Power utility PREPA has patched together most of the system but remains years away from making the fundamental improvements needed to enable it to withstand another hurricane.

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With hurricane season again approaching, the island’s health-care infrastructure remains brittle. Puerto Rico still doesn’t know how many people died from Hurricane Maria. A New York Times review of daily mortality rates found just over 1,000 more people died during and after the storm than

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"The grid needs to be rebuilt - not just the lines," PREPA Chief Executive Walter Higgins said.

Maria also damaged nearly half the island’s levees. Several major water pumps, used to remove floodwater, remain in disrepair.

“God help us, but we definitely can’t handle any more hurricanes,” said Tania Vazquez, the island's secretary of natural resources.

Governor Ricardo Rossello’s office declined to comment on the island's hurricane preparedness or on specific efforts to protect the elderly, referring questions to other agencies.

Glorimar Andujar, Secretary of the Department of Family, said officials learned a lot from Maria about how to prepare for the next storm.

“The emergency plans are much better," Andujar said, "because we now have an experience that no other generation of agency leaders have experienced.”

ELDERLY AT RISK

Rosa Iturrizaga runs Hostal de Amigos, a small eldercare residence in San Juan.

The home barely broke even before Maria, relying on resident fees of between $2,000 and $3,000 a month. Since then, two of 11 residents moved to the mainland, and insurance has so far not paid for about $40,000 in storm damage, Iturrizaga said. The business carries $500,000 in debt, has fallen behind on loan and tax payments and now loses up to $5,000 a month.

A parade and a prayer: Puerto Rico, eight months later

  A parade and a prayer: Puerto Rico, eight months later Sunday, as more than million people come out to Fifth Ave. to celebrate Puerto Rico, two dark clouds linger over the island and the 3.5 million American citizens who live there. Eight months since Hurricane Maria hit shore, Puerto Rico is grappling with the news that, according to a Harvard University analysis, more than 4,500 people died as a result of the storm, not the absurdly low government figure of 64.

It’s hurricane season once again. Why is the official death count so low? There are at least eight different Maria-related death tallies in Puerto Rico . The local government’s count is the lowest of all.

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"I don't know what's kept me going," Iturrizaga said. "I love doing this, but I'm looking at other things to do with the land."

Another private home, the nonprofit Asilo San Rafael in Arecibo, theoretically charges residents $1,200 a month; in reality, only three of 27 residents pay full price, and at least nine pay nothing, said board member Lucila Oliver.

Operating costs run about $700,000 annually, with about $110,000 coming from a handful of subsidies from the island’s central government – subsidies she says have declined sharply in recent years as the now-bankrupt Puerto Rican government fell into a fiscal crisis, Oliver said.

The Department of Family's Andujar disputed that the subsidies have declined, but Oliver provided Reuters with balance sheets showing a drop in department funding to $59,000 this fiscal year from $80,000 last year.

Maria brought new costs: about $1,200 a month to bring in water tanks, and thousands more on diesel for generators. Oliver said San Rafael is "used to living on the edge," but says the edge has drawn closer since the hurricanes.

Many elderly and disabled here find a way to get by at home, with little care. Some seek help from the Department of Family, applying for a caregiver to come by just a day or two a week, said Andujar.

Many are turned away, she said.

Puerto Rican Day Parade show post-hurricane pride

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The New York Times. U.S.| Hurricane Maria Live Updates: Structural Officials in Puerto Rico were corralling incoming aid as rescue and recovery efforts continued after the storm, Mr. Rosselló said on MSNBC on Friday. “If we get to an elderly home too late, the situation of care will be disastrous.”

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“The funding is very limited,” she said, “and the need is very big.”

PREPARING FOR ANOTHER HIT

This hurricane season, the department is making sure it has accurate locations for all licensed nursing homes after cell phone service disruptions stymied the response to Hurricane Maria. The homes, Andujar said, are now required to have 30 days of food on hand, and the department has also requested they have generators and water tanks.

She added that about 315,000 elderly people currently receive benefits as part of a $1.27 billion federal allocation under the Nutritional Assistance Program.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remains on the island and said it has given municipalities money to improve community resilience.

Dr. Carmen Sanchez Salgado, Puerto Rico's ombudsmen for the elderly, said her staff has been educating elderly people about the emergency supplies they need.

Charities and nonprofits have also helped. The nonprofit PRxPR, created in response to Maria, is funding solar panels for elderly people and community centers.

One such center in Naguabo had no power as recently as four weeks ago, said Carmen Baez, the group's co-founder.

"Our installation was it," she said.

(Reporting by Nick Brown, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Ricardo Ortiz; Additional reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by Daniel Bases and Brian Thevenot)

Trump to Puerto Rico governor: I think we've helped you a lot .
President Trump on Thursday told the governor of Puerto Rico that his administration has done "a lot" to help the territory recover after two devastating hurricanes that hit last year. Trump made the comments to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló during a working lunch with U.S. governors, according to reporters in the room. .⁦President Trump on Thursday told the governor of Puerto Rico that his administration has done "a lot" to help the territory recover after two devastating hurricanes that hit last year.

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