• The San Juan Daily Star

Governor signs new executive order for COVID-19 response

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced on Monday the signing of a new executive order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through which he seeks to group all the current provisions and add others to address the ongoing public health emergency, and in this way continue to prevent the transmission and spread of the coronavirus as well as combat its new variants.

The main new provisions include measures to order the vaccination of minors between five and 11 years of age, determine restrictions at mass activities for minors in that age group, and establish mandatory vaccination for employers with 50 employees or more, as well as eliminate the requirement of a sworn certification for religious exemption and of submitting a negative test on the first day of work for unvaccinated people; the tests will now be submitted every seven business days.

“Given that during the pandemic it has been found that cases have a tendency to emerge in waves, an increase is possible at any time,” the governor said at a press conference. “That is why we will continue to promote vaccination, including boosters, to ensure that we keep our population protected. Currently our island has set an example worldwide in terms of vaccination statistics, since more than 80 percent of our eligible population is vaccinated.”

Pierluisi added that “in order to avoid significant increases [in infections] and in view of the upcoming holiday festivities, it is necessary to maintain certain measures and include other affirmative actions in more vulnerable sectors so as to maintain the low trends that have made us an example for other jurisdictions.”

“It has been shown that vaccination is the most important measure to reduce the risks of transmission of COVID-19, so we continue to urge all eligible people to consult their doctors and make the decision for their good and that of Puerto Rico,” the governor said.

As part of the new executive order and as a precautionary measure, the use of masks in activities with 50 people or more outdoors is mandated and is also recommended in tourist places in urban areas where crowds gather. The mask requirement does not include beaches or resorts. The Department of Health may also require the use of masks in other settings that it determines to be appropriate. The use of a mask in closed places is still required as before. For private meetings of 20 people or fewer, in which everyone is vaccinated, the mask will be recommended but not mandatory.

Regarding mass activities in closed places, it remains that all people must be vaccinated for the establishment to have 100 percent occupancy. For establishments that require a negative test but not vaccination, the capacity will be limited to 50 percent occupancy.

Minors from five to 11 years old, meanwhile, will be able to attend mass events indoors until Jan. 31, 2022 with a negative COVID-19 test result performed 72 hours before entering the establishment. As of Feb. 1, 2022, those minors will be governed by the provisions that apply to adults. The previous provisions will not apply to children under five years of age, who will not be able to attend such events without a dispensation from the Department of Health.

The aforementioned provisions will not apply to public or religious events in which government services or a dispensation from the Department of Health are provided.

For activities in open places with crowds of 500 people or more, the use of a mask is required and the organizers must coordinate the necessary protocols with the Department of Health.

As for public employees or contractors, the new order will also include municipal employees, who will have 45 days to comply with full vaccination, either with one of the vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or one of those listed by the World Health Organization.

Employees will have three options: vaccination, negative result or positive result with a document proving their recovery.

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