Puerto Rico officially updates Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Tuesday he is updating the official death count from Hurricane Maria to 2,975, matching that of a study released by George Washington University.

“Even though it’s an estimate ... we are putting an official number to the death toll. We will take the 2,975 number as the official estimate for the excess deaths as a product of the hurricane,” Rosselló said at a press conference. 

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The number is a sharp increase from the government's initial official death toll of 64, a figure that many called into question following the publication of a Harvard study earlier this year that pegged the figure at several thousand.

Officials in Puerto Rico and the Trump administration have faced criticism over their preparedness for the storm, which ravaged the U.S. territory last fall, causing widespread power outages for months.

“I agree that we could be and should be more effective on the operational side … I agree I made mistakes," Rosselló said Tuesday. "This could have been done differently."

“Everybody is [going to be held accountable]. This is a review process ... and everybody is going to be expected to make change, and if they can’t make change, then they cannot be in the administration,” he added. 

Rosselló also announced an investigatory commission to explore issues of public health and public safety to further probe what the island could do to be better prepared for such a storm in the future and to implement the recommendations laid out in the GWU study.

Included among the recommendations are establishing a “planning process,” assigning “needed financial resources” for hurricane relief, developing special monitoring systems for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, and improving the flow of information to “decision makers.”

Rosselló said that the report offered “good recommendations.” He also emphasized that the study is being done in phases and this is just the first of many.

“This is a time for Puerto Ricans to bind together, to mourn, to reflect on the things that were done properly and the things that were mistakes and to have a firm commitment to identifying those mistakes and make sure that moving forward towards our future those mistakes aren’t repeated,” he said.