Puerto Rico Governor Announces New Restrictions to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

(August 31, 2021 – Washington, DC) – Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi and the Puerto Rico Health Secretary, Carlos Mellado, announced at a press conference Monday, new measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both reiterated that mass vaccination continues to be the most effective solution to prevent infections since it has been proven that the majority of hospitalizations and deaths from the virus continue to be from unvaccinated people. 

“Getting vaccinated is an act of civic responsibility, of respect for others, and we should all aspire to foster a Puerto Rico where we put the common good above all else.  In addition to the actions and orders issued by this government, each person must protect themselves individually with the measures that have been encouraged since the pandemic began in March of 2020,” the Governor said immediately before announcing the new executive order. 

Executive Order 2021-065 establishes temporary restrictions on private and commercial activity hours, expands mask requirements, and limits elective surgeries. The new executive order, which goes into effect this Thursday, September 2nd, mandates the closure of all private operations that serve the public from 12 midnight to 5 a.m. This includes, but is not limited to, commercial, professional, non-professional, retail, entertainment, and other premises. The new executive order will remain in effect until September 23, 2021. 

Private operations that do not serve the public, such as manufacturing, construction, commerce, distribution, and agriculture, are excluded from this provision in terms of hours. Health related services and vaccination centers are excluded from the order as well. Additionally, funeral services, ports, airports, media, security services, transportation, and utilities would be exempt. It will also not apply to gas stations, supermarkets, stores selling necessities, restaurants with delivery model, food services in hotels and inns, but only for guests. 

The Governor explained that during the period from midnight to 5 a.m., the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in any public place will be prohibited. This ban includes social activities, such as weddings and large gatherings in public or private establishments. 

Regarding the use of masks, the governor repeated that there is already a mandate that orders everyone to wear a mask in interior places. The new executive order requires the mandatory use of masks in open places where 50 people or more are gathered together.

Likewise, it orders clinical personnel in hospitals to use KN-95 or N-95 masks for their protection. It also prohibits elective surgeries, subject to medical criteria, which require the use of post-operative intensive care units. 

On the other hand, the new executive order prohibits recreational vessels from rafting together, and limits anchoring on beaches, keys, and islets less than 100 feet from the shore, except when using mooring buoys.

The Secretary of Health, Carlos Mellado, said that the measures to be implemented will contribute to slowing down the cases that have been on the rise in the past weeks. “It is time for all of us to work as a team for Puerto Rico. We have already lost too much and we don’t want to lose more lives to this terrible virus. We want our population healthy and safe. We all want to normal, but we have a long way to go. As long as there are unvaccinated people, there will be room for variants to continue to evolve and become more aggressive, hence the importance of our call for everyone to get vaccinated”. 

He added that, “we have greatly advanced in our vaccination efforts. Our citizens and private companies have joined the government in our efforts to end this pandemic. Thankfully, today we have 81.4% of the eligible population with at least one dose and 70% with both doses. We will not rest, our goal remains the same, to protect all our citizens and keep them safe,” added Dr. Mellado.   

Meanwhile, Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi indicated that, “we are trying to avoid late night crowds where alcohol consumption can cause to gather without taking proper precautions, which is why we are closing down after midnight. I value our personal freedoms and would prefer not to impose these limitations, but right now public health is paramount,” he said. 

The Puerto Rico Department of Health continues vaccination efforts, including third doses for immunocompromised persons. Currently, the Island’s government has implemented rigorous measures to promote vaccination, such as requiring proof of vaccination or weekly COVID testing for all government employees, schools and workers in many industries, as well as for clients of places where people must take their mask off to eat or drink, like restaurants, cinemas and concert halls. The mandates order that establishments that choose to not require proof of vaccination or negative COVID testing, must reduce their capacity to 50 percent.

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