Governor loosens a few pandemic restrictions in new executive order
By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia presented on Thursday the new executive order for managing the coronavirus pandemic with changes in the curfew hours. It will be in force until March 14, 2021.
“We have had the lowest [rate of positive COVID-19] cases since the summer of 2020,” Pierluisi said in a virtual news conference. “This is because people are complying. That is good news, but we cannot let our guard down.”
The current executive order expires Sunday.
“I have accepted several recommendations from the scientific community, with four weeks’ time to have an effect on infections,” the governor said. “The modifications are limited so that the health measures continue.”
Pierluisi also insisted on the need to open schools.
“That for me is a social tragedy that we have to remedy,” he said.
The new executive order leaves in place the restrictions of the previous order, although it modifies certain areas such as the nighttime curfew, which will be in effect from 12 a.m. until 5 a.m. Commercial establishments may remain open until 11 p.m. Also, occupancy at commercial establishments will be increased to 50 percent, except for restaurants, which will remain at maximum 30 percent occupancy. In both cases, the six-foot social distancing requirement is maintained.
Although the order will be in effect until March 14, Pierluisi said it recognizes the possibility of opening schools, consistent with the recommendations of the American Pediatric Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chief White House medical adviser and epidemiologist Anthony Fauci, and the public policy of President Joe Biden.
During the term of the order it is established that the return to classes will be regulated by the island departments of Education and Health.
Likewise, the Health Department is ordered to establish, in conjunction with the Family Department, a protocol for allowing visits to care centers for the elderly in a limited and controlled manner, and avoiding infection risks. The departments of Health and Correction and Rehabilitation are ordered to do the same regarding visits to prisons.
As for sporting events, sports and recreation activities will be allowed as long as they comply with the established regulations. Therefore, the Recreation and Sports Department is directed to publish a departmental memo on those regulations.
Private schools, like all commercial establishments, are encouraged to register in the bio portal of the Municipal Case Investigation and Contact Tracing System.
“It has always been my guiding principle to seek balance, listening and being attentive to the health and economic sectors in order to make decisions that safeguard the health of all, but also that do not further harm our already battered economy,” the governor said.
“Our collective goal is to return to a new normal, but for now we must all continue with preventive measures to protect ourselves from the virus. The mask [wearing], distancing, and hand washing continues to be the lifestyle that we must continue to lead, even if we have already received one or two doses of the vaccine.”
Pierluisi said the new order may have changed before the expiration of its term of effect.
“If we have to restrict it more or make it more flexible, I will do so,” he said. “We will continue to observe the statistics, especially hospitalizations and new infections, which provide a picture of the status of our hospital system and its response.”