Governor of Puerto Rico Extends Lockdown as the Island Is Recognized as the Lead Jurisdiction in the U.S. Preventing COVID-19 Outbreaks

(April 2, 2020 – Washington, D.C.) Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced the extension of Puerto Rico’s lockdown until April 12th, 2020 in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The Governor issued Executive Order 2020-029, which contains additional, stricter measures to ensure the health and well-being of the people of Puerto Rico as the island works to combat COVID-19.  During this crisis, the island has been recognized for its strategic plan and response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and has been listed by experts as an example in the prevention and mitigation of the COVID-19 to the 50 states and territories. 

In an unprecedented act, Governor Vázquez Garced enforced a full lockdown of the island more than two weeks ago, beginning on March 15th, 2020 and extended such provision an additional two weeks after the number of COVID-19 cases increased on the island. The Governor’s Executive Order mandates a lockdown of government agencies, schools, shopping malls, theaters, casinos, gyms, recreation parks, bars, clubs, and private business, excluding essential services as defined in Executive Order 2020-029.  In addition, from March 31th, 2020 through the duration of the lockdown, the island is under a strict curfew that has been modified from 9:00 p.m. in the prior Executive Order to 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. in Executive Order 2020-029. However, citizens are permitted to be out to receive healthcare services and buy necessary food supplies before 7:00 p.m.; exempted from the mandatory lockdown are those individuals providing essential services. In addition, from April 1st, 2020 until the duration of the lockdown, supermarkets will not operate on Sundays. 

Governor Vázquez Garced has also included an innovative measure that would designate specific days for vehicle transit. The order establishes that if the vehicle license plate ends in an even number, the citizen will be allowed to travel Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Similarly, if it ends in an odd number, the citizen will be allowed to travel Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays. No vehicle will be allowed to travel on Sundays; however, exempted from the mandatory vehicle transit measures will be citizens who are out to receive healthcare services or have medical appointments as well as those providing essential services. 

Additionally, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM) in San Juan, Puerto Rico is the first to use infrared cameras to detect fevers in individuals, this is the first symptom of contagion with Coronavirus COVID-19. Also, the Governor announced that from today until May 2020, self-employed individuals will be able to apply for a $500 economic incentive to alleviate the adverse effects of COVID-19. Furthermore, following implementation of the CARES Act by the federal government, there will be an extension of up to 13 weeks to receive unemployment benefits until December 31th, 2020. It also includes access to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program that will cover the self-employed, independent contractors, and people who must stay to care for their child at home for lack of school or care, and other.   

“As Governor of Puerto Rico I am working tirelessly to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico are safe by taking proactive action to effectively combat the COVID-19 global pandemic. Puerto Rico currently has the most widespread protections and stricter measures in place in the U.S and has been recognized for leading in the prevention of COVID-19 outbreaks across the Nation,” expressed the Governor.

The Governor added that “The island currently has 316 cases and 12 deaths, but the experts of my medical task force have made projections that indicate a potential exponential increased in contagion and positive cases if individuals don’t observe social distancing, and the Government lifts the lockdown. It is with this in mind, that I have made the decision to extend the lockdown until April 12th, 2020, in an effort to ensure the health and well-being of the people of Puerto Rico. We will continue to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 in the island and take the necessary measures to slow the spread of this disease.” 

“Puerto Rico has implemented a series of necessary aggressive measures to ensure the safety and welfare of the 3.2 million U.S. citizens that call the island home,” said Jennifer M. Storipan, Esq. “In an unprecedented act, the Governor has extended the lockdown, and thus far, it is the jurisdiction that has the most aggressive measures in the Nation as the U.S. continues to weather this pandemic. We will continue to lead by example and take the necessary initiatives to combat this pandemic.” 

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