Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló issued an executive order Friday creating a committee to establish protocols about reporting deaths related to natural disasters.* The group is called the 9/20 Committee, an apparent reference to Sept. 20, the day*Hurricane Maria hit the island last year.
The committee's creation comes two months after an*independent analysis*determined Maria was responsible for an estimated 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico from September 2017 through February 2018. That analysis was conducted by researchers at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.
The committee is co-chaired by Carlos Mercader, the executive director of the Puerto Rico government's Federal Affairs Administration.
"It is our intention that this Committee serve as a model for the whole of the United States so that we can more adequately assess mortality but more importantly, avoid the loss of life during and after both natural and man-made disasters," Mercader said in a release.
Rosselló accepted the findings of the GWU study and later raised the official death toll from the storm to 2,975 from 64, the initial figure.
A report on the findings made various recommendations on issues including mortality surveillance and communication during natural disasters. They included establishing clear leadership of the Puerto Rico Department of Health when it comes to mortality surveillance, and improving efficiency regarding the flow of information to decision makers.
"This Committee will play a key role in the future of our island, as it will establish the appropriate protocols and guidelines so that we are better prepared in the face of a disaster such as Hurricane Maria," Rosselló said.
The 19-person committee includes scholars from universities like Columbia and George Washington, as well as health officials from government agencies and health care groups.

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