Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Gov. Pierluisi Makes Changes to Covid Executive Orders

By on January 5, 2021

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (File)

Starting Friday, curfew begins at 11 p.m.; bars to remain closed

SAN JUAN — In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi announced changes to the government’s measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Puerto Rico.

Starting Friday and to be in force for 30 days, Pierluisi’s executive order shortens the curfew by two hours, to run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.; however, businesses must close at 10 p.m.

The Sunday lockdown was eliminated “to have uniformity” within the order. Beaches, swimming pools and recreational areas are reopened. People must keep a 10-foot distance among themselves and others, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

The governor maintains the right to change the order at any time, and will do so if the number of hospitalizations rise.

“He also ordered Puerto Rico’s Treasury Department to use federal funds and create economic incentives to help tens of thousands of small and medium businesses hard hit by strict closures that have been in place since March,” the Associated Press reported.

Some of the measures in the previous executive order, which remains in effect until Thursday will continue in force.

Iván Báez, the president of the Puerto Rico Retailers Association (ACDET by its Spanish initials) had indicated that the Sunday closure represented $150 million in lost wages, thus affecting the income of those workers in the middle of Christmas. He anticipated that it could also cause business closures.

Retail sales in Puerto Rico are down 15 percent compared with last year and 15,000 jobs have been lost in this sector.

The same social-distancing restrictions apply and businesses may only operate at 30 percent capacity. 

Nightclubs, bars and cafes must remain closed, while casinos, movie theaters and gyms can open at a maximum 30 percent capacity.

The announcement comes the same day the second COVID-19 vaccine dose is being distributed on the island, the AP noted, adding that some 60,000 people have been vaccinated so far and 90,000 are expected by the end of the week.

“Those scheduled to be vaccinated soon include teachers, with Pierluisi saying in-person classes could resume by March on a gradual scale,” the AP wrote, adding that Carlos Mellado, Puerto Rico’s designated health secretary, said he expects 40,000 vaccine doses to arrive on the island every week.

The opening of recreational areas is allowed in urbanizations and condominiums with a capacity also of 30 percent. Homeowners associations and boards should establish the allowed number of people in relation to the number of residents.

“Our goal has to be to be able to return to a new normal. As far as that is possible, we have to continue taking preventive measures to safeguard the health and life of [people]. I have received recommendations from the Scientific Coalition that I created last year, as well as from representative sectors of our society, our businesses and the government. Using scientific data as a basis, I have sought an adequate balance of the claims of everyone on our island,” the governor said. He added that he and his team “have formed a comprehensive and multisectoral strategy to manage the pandemic and improve our ability as a government to deal with future emergencies. The objective is to coordinate all efforts in a systematic way so that restrictions are not the only strategy against COVID, and on the contrary we use all the measures at our disposal to combat it.”

In addition to the modifications, according the press release, the following are other strategies outlined by the governor:

I. According to the executive order signed Saturday, OE-2021-001, the Secretary of Health is developing a testing administration plan throughout Puerto Rico to identify people infected with the COVID-19 virus, have a clearer picture of the level of transmission at the island level, and to be able to increase the offer of monoclonal treatments to avoid complications in patients and avoid hospitalizations.

II. In addition, a massive media and prevention campaign will be optimized, expanded and diversified to complement all actions against COVID and to continue to ensure that the public takes all precautionary measures.

III. Likewise, the calls of the scientific community are addressed, and the Secretary of Health, the General of the National Guard, and the Chief Executive of Innovation and Information are activated to strengthen and digitize all tracking systems, data collection, and of interconnection of agencies and entities concerned…to improve access to data in real time so that data can be analyzed with greater certainty.

IV. On the other hand, to the extent that these restrictions have considerably affected the commercial sector, the Executive Order includes an order to the Secretary of the Treasury to present for the approval of the Disbursement Supervision Committee of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) within a term of ten (10) days a distribution plan to award / grant financial assistance to eligible businesses and organizations that have suffered economic losses due to a business interruption since March 15, 2020 , or to cover unforeseen costs / losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a mitigation measure to these adverse effects.

V. Finally, the review of the vaccination plans with the Secretary of Health and his team, and the General of the National Guard, including the recommendations of the Scientific Coalition, continues to expedite, improve and optimize the distribution and administration of these vaccines to our entire population. These plans should include increasing the information of the phases of the plan.