New order lessens restrictions on beaches, private sector, including restaurants, casinos, gyms

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

After press outlets reported that the next executive order (EO 2020-066) was expected to be more than a moderate reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced on Thursday the reopening of gyms, beaches, movie theaters and casinos.

With the island Health Department on Wednesday reporting that deaths in Puerto Rico due to the disease caused by the coronavirus had reached 500, Vázquez Garced said she was determined to make the executive order more flexible, but curfew hours will stay the same.

“The most important thing in order to protect ourselves is not the curfew or the limitations that we can implement. The most important and necessary thing is to protect ourselves. The use of the mask and maintaining physical distance is what will help us save lives, more than closures or space limitations,” Vázquez said Thursday at a press conference. “The government has a role, but citizens have a responsibility to take care of themselves. Nobody would like to be infected and then go home to infect their children, their parents, their siblings.”

This is what islanders need to know about the new executive order, which takes effect starting Sunday and will be in effect until Oct. 2:

* Curfew remains from 10 p.m to 5 a.m.

* Total lockdown ruling on Sunday is lifted

* Dry law is eliminated. Alcohol can be sold during the day until 10 p.m.

* In-person classes will not be possible until further notice

* The use of face mask coverings remains mandatory, while gatherings remain forbidden.

* Permitted indoor restaurant capacity is 50 percent, and physical distancing measures are mandatory. Previously it was 25 percent. The capacity will not be limited for open spaces; for example, restaurants with outdoor areas

* Capacity at retail stores, laundromats, car dealers, churches, calling hours at funeral homes capacity is raised to 50 percent, physical distancing measures are mandatory.

* Large home gatherings, parties with large crowds remain prohibited

* Gyms will be authorized to open, but with a 25 percent capacity limit

* Indoor movie theaters will be authorized to open with a 25 percent capacity limit

* Casinos will be authorized to open with a 25 percent capacity limit

* Bars, dance clubs and “chinchorros” that don’t have open spaces remain closed

* Beaches can reopen for bathing, workout and recreational activities; physical distancing measures are required, while gatherings are prohibited. Beachgoers in groups must remain with the same people or family members, maintaining six to eight feet of distance from other groups

* Pools are permitted for common use, physical distancing measures are required

* Docks will be authorized to open, but boats must stay 15 feet apart

* Mass activities, such as parades and caravans, and any activities that promote gatherings remain prohibited

* Concert and theater performances will be held under scrutiny by the chief of staff.

Citizens who violate the executive order will be charged with a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail sentence. The governor said this was like a “second chance” for citizens.

“We are in a stage of community infection,” she said. “Wearing a mask can make the difference between getting COVID-19 or staying healthy.”

The governor also highlighted that since the Interagency Committee was created in May to ensure compliance on the part of businesses and government entities with the obligation to deliver their self-certification and COVID-19 management plan to the Department of Labor, 3,223 inspections have been conducted. She added that so far in September, 176 inspections have been carried out. Of those, 157 businesses and entities were in compliance, and only 19 were not.

During the press conference, Vázquez also determined to dissolve both the Medical and Economic task forces as she said they “offered their experience, professionalism, and valuable time to help the government when we needed it the most, to help Puerto Rico and everyone else who lives on the island.” Both initiatives will remain now as a scientific method.

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