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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mask mandate largely lifted under new pandemic EO

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

Vaccination requirements remain in effect

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López announced Monday a new executive order to go into effect this week that will repeal certain restrictions that sought to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The order, which will go into effect Thursday, would eliminate use of masks in most instances but maintain requirements for vaccination and administration of the booster dose.

“As you know, the hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 have dropped considerably and we can already say that our health system is not compromised, that the level of infections is controlled and our level of vaccination continues to be the best in the American nation,” the governor said.

He used the opportunity to once again thank the entire health community – doctors, clinicians, nurses, respiratory technicians, technologists and laboratory personnel, among many others.

“The government has taken affirmative actions with the sole purpose of safeguarding the health of our people, ensuring access to medical services, and increasing the accessibility of tests and vaccines, at the same time that we seek a balance to mitigate the impact on our economy and our merchants,” Pierluisi said. “The best tool we have against COVID-19 remains vaccination and boosters.”

The governor pointed out that thanks to vaccination and treatments for COVID-19, there is a better outlook that allows the relaxation of previously imposed restrictions in order to continue returning to normal after almost two years of the pandemic.

Mellado López, meanwhile, stressed that vaccination has been and will continue to be a key tool to correctly manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While it is true that the pandemic is not over, the immunity we have achieved with vaccination puts us in a better position than any other territory,” he said. “We are the best in vaccination, which has allowed more lives to be saved in the face of an aggressive virus such as COVID-19. Today, nine out of 10 people are vaccinated, more than half of the eligible population already has a booster dose, and 70 percent of our children are vaccinated.”

The order repeals the use of masks in outdoor and indoor areas with some exceptions. It is recommended that everyone use the mask in indoor areas where the vaccination status of all those present cannot be verified.

The mandate for the use of masks in health facilities, such as hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, health centers, clinics, laboratories and pharmacies, is maintained. That mandate is also maintained in long-term care homes for older adults.

The Health Department may require the use of masks in other settings as it deems necessary to prevent the spread of infection, including in school classrooms, childcare centers and universities. Each employer or public or private operator, at their discretion, may implement health measures that they deem necessary, including requiring the use of masks.

Meanwhile, the order repeals capacity restrictions in public and private entities. Likewise, the screening requirement for vaccination status or testing in public and private establishments, such as restaurants and community centers, among others, is eliminated. However, the new executive order allows establishment operators, at their discretion, to implement the health measures that they understand correspond to their type of operation, including the screening of visitors.

The new order allows for mass activities, but the Department of Health will establish the protocol to be followed in activities of more than 1,000 people. Specifically, any mass activity of more than 1,000 people held in theaters, amphitheaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention centers, whether indoors or outdoors, must comply with the protocol issued by the Health secretary.

The order also eliminates the requirement that tourists fill out the Traveler’s Declaration or present Vacu-ID at airports as of this Thursday, March 10. Genomic surveillance and voluntary testing centers at airports will remain available as required by the Department of Health.

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