Country inn owners favor keeping prevention protocols in place despite CDC’s relaxing of guidelines

By John McPhaul

The Country Inn Owners and Tourism Association of Puerto Rico on Sunday reiterated its support for the position of Health Secretary Dr. Carlos Mellado López on the need to continue avoiding crowds, and to maintain the use of masks and physical distancing in all common areas and in daily activities where groups of people are formed, vaccinated or not vaccinated.

The association made its announcement despite the new recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states that vaccinated people need not wear masks in most situations.

“We trust in science and in data, and although we continue to progress, Puerto Rico is not ready to adopt the new recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding vaccinated people,” said Jesús Ramos, president of the Association and owner of the Parador Villas Sotomayor in Adjuntas. “We are just recovering from the crisis caused by the irresponsibility of a [small] group of citizens during Holy Week, and it is not pertinent to make these proven protection and hygiene practices more flexible. It is clear that businesses will not be able to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated customers, and we must responsibly promote the common good.”

“We believe that while we continue to advance in vaccination, we must focus on gradually extending the percentage of occupancy in closed restaurants, shopping centers, megastores and other centers of economic activity, where the data reflects a greater potential for risk,” he added.

According to data from the island Department of Health, in Puerto Rico about 2,400,000 doses of vaccine have been administered, of the approximate total of six million doses available, and necessary to immunize the vast majority of the population. Just last week, vaccinations began for children 12 years and older, so there is still a long way to go, Villas Sotomayor said.

“Certainly, we are all eager to get back to normal as soon as possible. However, we must continue with a prudent reopening process ensuring that we do not compromise the benefits of vaccination, and cause a setback like those of December 2020 and March 2021,” reiterated Tomás Ramírez, a past vice president of the Association and co-owner of the Combate Beach Resort in Cabo Rojo. “There are too many examples of new rebounds [of infections] in the world, and our economy cannot withstand another closure.”

According to the owners of the island’s small inns, known as paradores in Spanish, during the pandemic they have conducted their family businesses in a conservative way to ensure the health of their employees and customers. As of this date, some inns maintain additional restrictions on the use of their facilities beyond those imposed by the executive order issued by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and the Tourism Company guidelines, to which they attribute the great support they have received since January and that they have not had a single positive case among their employees.

Puerto Rico should consider making the requirements and tests more flexible for all fully vaccinated people traveling to and from Puerto Rico, as long as they can demonstrate that they are immunized,” Ramírez said. “However, as recommended by the CDC, these people must follow the regulations imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration and comply with the requirements that states, cities or businesses have regarding the use of masks and physical distancing, such as those required in the executive order and recommended by the Secretary of Health.”

Ramos added that “[a]s a people we must recognize that we face a new challenge with the vaccination of the youngest population and we must attend to it with haste.”

“At the inns, we propose to increase education about the benefits of vaccination among our employees and their families, and we invite other entrepreneurs to do the same,” he said. “It is imperative that before thinking about eliminating controls and sanitary practices that work, we need to achieve herd immunity to protect our families, employees and clients.”

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