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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

New pandemic EOs keep some restrictions in place, loosen others

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Sunday signed three new executive orders (EOs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The EOs are slated to go into effect this week.

The new provisions include a booster vaccination mandate for employees of child care centers, gyms, beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops, spas and casinos. In addition, the guidelines and recommendations regarding the use of a mask, and the requirement of a 75% capacity limit in restaurants, theaters and cinemas in closed spaces, remain in place.

On the other hand, the new EOs increase to 75% the capacity allowed in closed places whose main function is to carry out mass activities such as activity rooms, convention centers and coliseums. The increase will also apply to the capacity limit for bars and sports bars.

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López and La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Noelia García Bardales are allowed to establish particular protocols for mass activities.

As regards travel, passengers who have Vacu-ID with the booster dose do not have to complete the Traveler’s Declaration.

“Given the rebound in cases caused by the omicron variant that we have had in Puerto Rico and other parts of the world, I took restrictive measures to help us counteract the virus,” the governor said. “We are currently seeing a sustained reduction in statistics regarding the positivity rate and hospitalizations, which presents us with a better picture. Even so, it is not yet time to let our guard down; we have to continue protecting ourselves against this virus and maintain the necessary precautionary measures.”

Pierluisi said the deaths that have occurred as a result of the pandemic are extremely unfortunate.

“We suffer with each of these deaths and it is very sad, because the most affected population has been the oldest,” he said.

The governor went on to reiterate that booster vaccination is the most effective weapon available to save lives and stop the virus, and encouraged those who are eligible and haven’t already gotten vaccinated to get the booster dose.

Over the weekend, hospitalizations fell again, this time to 209, while the positivity rate fell to 11.65 percent.

In order to continue establishing measures to promote vaccination, the governor promulgated Executive Order 2022-010, which requires the booster dose against COVID-19 for employees of gyms, barbershops, beauty salons, beauty salons, spas, child care centers and casinos. The order will be effective immediately and those to whom it applies will have until March 15 to complete their full cycle of vaccination with a booster dose.

“Given that scientific and medical evidence promotes the need for a booster dose, and that the current legal and jurisprudential framework has supported vaccination mandates, it is necessary to encourage the booster dose against COVID-19 among private sector employees at gyms, beauty salons, spas, child care centers and casinos,” the order states. “Therefore, this is the sector that was missing from which the main dose was required, and although the numbers of infections have decreased, it is important to strengthen immunization in these sectors that serve the public to keep transmission, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 at low levels.”

Official statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the effectiveness of the booster dose. Data up to December 2021 indicates that for every 100,000 inhabitants, 1,174.90 unvaccinated people, 512.27 vaccinated people and 305.47 people vaccinated with booster doses are infected.

Regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalizations, the CDC has concluded that unvaccinated people over the age of 18 are 16 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated.

The governor also issued EO 2022-011 on capacity limitation in establishments. A 75 percent occupancy of the total capacity is maintained in closed places such as restaurants, (including “fast foods,” “food courts,” cafeterias and any place whose main function is the sale of prepared food). The same applies to theaters, cinemas and similar places. The capacity in amphitheaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention centers, and community or activity centers that serve drinks or prepared meals is increased to 75 percent under the new EO. Likewise, the same capacity percentage will be allowed in bars, cafes and “sports bars.” It should be noted that the requirement to present proof of vaccination or a negative test for COVID-19 conducted within a maximum term of 48 hours before the visit will continue in effect.

In the case of mass events carried in indoor spaces, the capacity limitation of the event venue must be complied with.

Officials will also require that anyone over five years of age who attends present proof of vaccination including the booster dose for eligible people or a negative COVID-19 test carried out 48 hours before the event. Pierluisi noted that the Department of Health may allow mass activities with other capacity limits or other parameters not contained in the EO, through the evaluation and approval of waivers and health protocols that must govern each mass activity. EO 2022-011 will go into effect on Thursday and remain in force until March 31.

The governor also signed EO 2022-009 on passengers at the airport. Those travelers who have the Vacu-ID that reflects that they were inoculated with the booster dose will be exempt from filling out the required travel declaration.

Meanwhile, any adult with a Vacu-ID traveling with a minor over two years of age must fill out the “Traveler Declaration, COVID-19 Alert” or the “Travel Declaration Form, COVID-19 alert” of the minor and both will be able to use the special line for people with Vacu-ID.

Relevant government entities are directed to create a separate and expedited queue for travelers who have a Vacu-ID reflecting that they were inoculated with the booster dose. This EO will take effect on Friday and will remain in effect until March 31.

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