• The San Juan Daily Star

Small inn owners back new pandemic EO, urge further precautions

By John McPhaul

The Small Inn Owners and Tourism Association of Puerto Rico spoke out Tuesday in favor of the new measures established in Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s latest executive order to prevent infections and deaths from COVID-19, while suggesting that some of the measures are insufficient in the face of the positivity rate, hospitalizations, and the rapid spread of the delta variant.

“We support and want the total opening of the economy in a controlled way. We know that vaccination is very important to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect hospital capacity in Puerto Rico,” said Xavier A. Ramírez, president of the association and general manager of Combate Beach Resort. “However, we are convinced that maintaining health protection practices, such as the use of masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing, at all times, is essential to recovering our economy. For this reason, we have maintained proven health protection practices in our operations where people outside the immediate family gather, whether in closed spaces or outdoors; and they apply to employees and guests, vaccinated and not vaccinated.”

Ramírez said the inns, known locally in Spanish as “paradores,” have successfully implemented all the new requirements as stipulated in the latest executive orders. As of this date, over 99% of the employees are fully vaccinated, as are the vast majority of the guests who frequent them. He added that, to date, the rate of reservations remains above expectations for the current season.

“As we had anticipated, the vast majority of our guests prefer safe places with high standards of cleanliness and health, such as inns, to enjoy with their family,” said Christian Rivera, vice president of the association, and general manager of Parador Guánica 1929. “In addition, foreign guests who come to the inns demonstrate community commitment, and support our protocols. Our health practices continue to motivate Puerto Rican families to visit us, especially if they travel with children or older adults.”

Likewise, hostel owners support the implementation of additional controls in other sectors, entertainment venues and daily activities that promote the crowding of people, both indoors and outdoors. However, they consider that setting a maximum limit of 50 people before requiring masks in open spaces is very risky. Based on the accelerated contagion capacity shown by the delta variant, on their own initiative, some inns have reinforced their health protocols.

In addition, they said, the extra health measures work and have been shown to be very effective in mitigating the spread of the virus. They insist that although they could represent an additional cost and an inconvenience for some people, “they facilitate the economic opening and the return to school that Puerto Rico needs so much.”

They also point out that, at the current stage of the pandemic, islanders’ priorities must be centered on a safe reopening of schools and the protection of children. All businesses can contribute by establishing adequate capacity and service controls, and adjusting them based on changes in key indicators of the pandemic and its operational risks, without government intervention, they said.

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