Same curfew hours, but more flexibility in reopening and new back-to-school plans

By The Star Staff

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced Sunday that she extended the curfew until July 22.

Vázquez Garced issued Executive Order 2020-048, which maintains the nighttime curfew, with islanders permitted to leave their residences from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and establishes the parameters for the start of work in the public sector and in the public and private education system.

“As in previous executive orders, the importance of wearing a mask at all times is emphasized, as recommended by the medical task force and the Health Secretary [Lorenzo González Feliciano],” the governor said in a written statement.

“The precautionary measures with which compliance will be mandatory are the use of a mask, scarf or cloth to cover the area of the mouth and nose at all times; maintain a minimum space of six feet between people when visiting an establishment, store, restaurant, cinema or office; and avoid unnecessary crowds,” Vázquez said. “Anyone failing to comply with these precautionary measures would be violating the order, so they would be subject to established fines and penalties. Our priority is to keep our island healthy and protect everyone’s life.”

The order establishes that Puerto Rico government employees whom the appointing authority determines necessary in its work plan must begin to work in stages in their respective agencies on July 1. In order to preserve the health and safety of public employees, each agency head must maintain all the safety, health and infection control measures established in the COVID-19 Risk Management and Exposure Control Plan.

Agencies that provide services to citizens will be able to start receiving public at their facilities as of July 6, taking all the measures established in the plan. Each agency, according to its particular circumstances, must notify citizens of the conditions for care and offering services. It is important to avoid crowding and the use of masks is mandatory, Vázquez stressed.

Regarding services in university educational centers, each institution will be allowed to prepare a protocol for COVID-19 in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health, and Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) regulations.

The opening of university educational services will be allowed, complying with the six-foot separation parameter, the mandatory use of a mask and frequent hand washing.

“Public schools and private schools, whose classes are scheduled to start in mid-August, must prepare their work plans to reopen the campus according to health and safety parameters to prevent the spread of the virus during the next school semester,” the governor said. “Each educational entity, including the Department of Education, must present their plans in a timely fashion for returning to classes and the modality in which their courses will be offered.”

She added that each educational entity must establish communication and education activities for the opening with teachers, parents and those in charge of what the protection protocols will be for employees and students so that their doubts and concerns are dispelled and so it is recognized that responsibility for avoiding infection is shared.

For these reasons, it is reiterated that the opening of private schools and schools of the public education system during the term of the order (until July 22) has the purpose of preparing the facilities for the next school semester, as well as preparing students even though they will not be able to visit the schools during the term of the order.

Vázquez said the order allows sales of the electronic lottery and the traditional lottery, and also allows the operation of public transportation services, beginning July 1, in accordance with the regulations for COVID-19 established by the Metropolitan Bus Authority and by the Urban Train (Tren Urbano).

Meanwhile, funerals may be carried out in accordance with the protocol established by the island Health Department. For such purposes, cemeteries may open to the public, provided they comply with the precautionary measures, the rules of social distancing and the protocol established by the Health Department. The entry of children under 12 is prohibited, both to funeral homes and cemeteries. The hours for all funeral services will be until 8 p.m., since as part of Health Department protocol time must be allowed after every wake for disinfecting the area.

In her order, Vázquez said that “in accordance with strict compliance with the guidelines and regulations promulgated by the Department of Recreation and Sports, as of the time this Administrative Bulletin is in force, within the hours allowed by the curfew, individual, collective or full team sports and recreational training will be permitted to resume.

As of July 15, within the hours allowed by the curfew, the resumption of sporting events will only be allowed for professional leagues, with the exception of contact sports, such as boxing, among others.

Casinos may open, as long as they do not exceed the maximum occupancy equivalent to 75 percent of the capacity established in the current building code in Puerto Rico (PR Building Code 2018). They must comply with the protocols and guidelines established for COVID-19 by the Gaming Division, which are in accordance with the recommendations of the CDC, the Department of Health and PR-OSHA.

Likewise, the occupancy of shops and restaurants was modified to be up to 75 percent occupancy, according to the capacity established in the current building code (PR Building Code 2018). Each business premises will be responsible for complying with the safety and health measures required in the reopening protocols, including but not limited to the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, screening and social distancing.

In the entertainment area, the opening of venues is authorized for face-to-face events and concerts, complying with the standards of the CDC, the Department of Health and the PR-OSHA standards for COVID-19, including the six-foot separation parameter, the mandatory use of a mask, frequent hand washing and disinfection of the establishment daily, according to the protocols established by the industry. To this end, each location must establish a risk control plan for COVID-19 in accordance with the guidelines of the CDC, the Department of Health and the COVID-19 standards of PR-OSHA.

The producers will be responsible for following the risk control plans established by the venues so that each event is carried out in compliance with those plans.

Those who carry out sporting events must also comply with the specific rules and guidelines for each of the permitted activities, and with the details of protection for the holding of such events promoted by the Department of Recreation and Sports.

The Governor stressed that the central government remains vigilant and is closely monitoring the increase in cases of COVID-19 in the mainland United States and other countries, and will later announce the measures to be taken at airports in the event of the arrival of passengers.

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