In response to the news that a Harvard study is estimating that the Hurricane María death count in Puerto Rico is more than 70 times higher than the Puerto Rican government’s official death count of 64, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló appeared on CNN twice in the last 12 hours to respond. The first video clip is from NEW DAY on Friday morning:
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says if officials intentionally withheld death toll information without proper cause, "there will be hell to pay" pic.twitter.com/8W3n47Qdh2
— New Day (@NewDay) June 1, 2018
The second clip is from Anderson Cooper on Thursday night:
— CNN (@CNN) June 1, 2018
This is the part where we remind you what Puerto Rico’s Department of Health said in February—it could not authorize release of public mortality statistics from 2017 for any journalists or researchers, including the Harvard researchers who filed the new study this week:
We are currently working on two essential tasks that we have to complete prior to disclosing vital statistics data or archives for year 2017. From this past month of January to June/July, we carry out various activities to review, verify and correct the data on births, deaths and fetal deaths. This quality control activity is a fundamental and recurrent task in our operational cycle, and we work in conjunction with the NCHS [National Center for Health Statistics] in order to prepare the final statistical files. In addition to this current phase, we are completing the work plan for the revision of deaths associated with Hurricane María that was ordered by the Governor. We are basically leading this initiative together with NCEH/CDC [National Center for Environmental Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] staff. Therefore, until this investigation is completed, and by recommendation of the CDC itself, we are not authorized to provide new mortality data for the year 2017.
Just over the past few days, we have received other similar requests from the Ponce School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. We assure you that this same answer and explanation has been given to these other requests.
Once we have our final statistical files, we will be fully available to share them and to assist you and the School of Public Health.
Eric Perlloni Alayón, Lic. (R-967)
Director of Communications
Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Department of Health
So the question remains: will there be hell to pay or not?