Longer curfew, limited hours of operation included in new COVID EO
Retail and restaurant occupancy levels remain the same amid coronavirus case rise
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
As announced in his State of the Commonwealth Message on Wednesday night, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia filed the new executive order (EO) Thursday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico. The revised EO goes into effect today with the purpose of “finding balance considering the economic sector and, overall, giving priority to the people’s health,” the governor said.
EO 2021-026, which will be effective until May 9, includes an extension of the nighttime curfew to 10 p.m.-5 a.m., while businesses and restaurants are ordered to close at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, retail and restaurant occupancy will continue at 50 percent capacity, as long as the six-foot spacing between tables is guaranteed.
“Although the vaccination process has been extremely efficient and effective, in recent days there has been an increase in [coronavirus] infections and hospitalizations,” reads the EO.
“Studies show that 58% of infections are contracted in family activities, so we call on all citizens to continue to strictly carry out the precautionary measures imposed in this order.”
“However, given this increase, it is necessary to take certain measures to prevent further spread,” the EO continues. “This will allow us to continue the recovery of the affected economic sector while safeguarding the health and safety of the entire population.”
Meanwhile, crowded activities held without dispensation from the Chief of Staff’s Office are prohibited.
Press Secretary Sheila Angleró told the STAR that event planners were not required to obtain authorization to conduct social activities in the previous EO; however, after the uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the island, the new decree orders event planners to submit their proposals to be considered for approval and authorization from the aforementioned office.
“Such proposals will be evaluated subject to the implementation of safety and sanitation measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of those participating in the event,” the EO says. “The dispensations shall warn that the owner, manager or similar person of the place or center of activity shall be responsible for compliance at all times with the precautionary measures and with the provisions of this Order.”
The new EO states that events such as weddings, birthday parties, quinceañeras, baby showers, gender reveals, graduations, award ceremonies, corporate activities, assemblies and other crowded activities not expressly permitted in the decree require dispensation.
Furthermore, event planners must hand over safety protocols two weeks before the event considering Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Meanwhile, Pierluisi said in a written statement that aside from the decree, starting Monday the government will expand the COVID-19 vaccine campaign to every islander who is 16 years old and older.
“This will help us to speed up the vaccination of our people and achieve the herd immunity we are so eagerly awaiting,” the governor said as he urged citizens to cooperate in complying with the EO.
“It’s up to all of us to do our part to end this pandemic,” Pierluisi added.
The EO also states that theaters may remain open at 30 percent capacity, subject to compliance with a protocol, but coliseums, activity centers, nightclubs and bars will not be allowed to open.
Schools will continue operating according to the community transmission analysis published by the island Health Department Surveillance System.
Likewise, the Health Department and the Puerto Rico Public Safety Department and all its components, including the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, the National Guard and any other relevant agency, are “ordered to take the necessary steps to increase resources to enforce compliance with the provisions of the Executive Order.”
Furthermore, the aforementioned agencies are requested to ensure compliance with quarantine orders related to travelers arriving in Puerto Rico, as imposed in the Bulletin.
Likewise, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test requirement is maintained for travelers arriving on the island.
Marinas remain open, but the new EO prohibits the rafting up or mooring of several vessels together.
It also prohibits the crowding of people on beaches, rivers, spas, marinas, swimming pools and other bodies of water. To this end, the obligation to maintain a distance of no less than 10 feet between bathers who are not members of the same family unit is reiterated.
The maritime transportation services for the offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra will continue to operate for residents and people who work in those municipalities. Likewise, the opening of maritime transportation services for tourists to both islands will continue to be in effect, unless their respective mayors declare otherwise.
The EO lists the people and services excluded from the curfew, including gas stations and their distribution chains, but they will not be able to sell alcoholic beverages after 9 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Health Department Surveillance System classified 50 municipalities as having high or substantial COVID-19 transmission.
According to a report published the same day, which used data from tests performed between March 25 and March 31, 38 municipalities are at a “High Transmission” level.
The municipalities in the High Transmission level for the period covered by the report are: Aguada, Aguadilla, Cabo Rojo, Camuy, Canóvanas, Carolina, Cataño, Cayey, Ciales, Coamo, Comerío, Corozal, Dorado, Guayanilla, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Jayuya, Juncos, Lares, Las Marías, Loíza, Luquillo, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Quebradillas, Rincón, Río Grande, Sabana Grande, San Juan, San Lorenzo, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Vega Alta and Utuado.
“Schools from kindergarten to 12th grade must be in exclusively virtual teaching modality,” the report said.
Meanwhile, another 12 municipalities are at the “Substantial Transmission” level: Adjuntas, Añasco, Barceloneta, Bayamón, Caguas, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Humacao, Las Piedras, San Sebastián, Vega Baja and Yauco.
According to the Health Department, this means that schools in those municipalities must adopt mechanisms to ensure twice-weekly COVID-19 screening tests for teachers and staff members.
Moreover, the agency stated that schools must offer weekly COVID screening tests to at least 10% of the students who are taking hybrid classes and have both the caregivers’ consent and the minor’s assent.
Additional testing is advised if the student is presenting symptoms related to the coronavirus.