Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez held a televised press conference, flanked by members of the economic and medical task forces, in which she announced the provisions of the new Executive Order 2020-062.
The executive order will be effective for 21 days, from August 22 to September 11. This new mechanism will replace the current executive order, until it contains similar restrictions already in place as a means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the island. "We have to be very rigorous," Vázquez said.
A curfew is still in place and within the same timeframe. Residents and visitors may only leave their homes from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. That is, unless they are exempt from this limitation due to work or health reasons, people cannot be outside their residences from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
On Sundays, everyone must stay home unless they are essential workers; if they require health services, or if they are going to shop at the exempt businesses, such as drugstores, gas stations, and supermarkets. In other words, there will be a 24-hour lockdown in place for most residents and activities.
Bars and other commercial establishments whose primary business model relies on the sale of alcoholic beverages shall remain closed until further notice.
Moreover, a dry law is still in place from Monday to Saturday from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and alcoholic beverages or liquors may not be sold anywhere on Sundays.
Businesses must also ensure that customers are not gathering in their premises for alcohol consumption, lest they be exposed to fees or closure.
Allowed Commercial Activities
Contrary to previous speculation, shopping centers may continue to operate from Monday to Saturday outside curfew at 25 percent capacity, or one person per every 100 square feet. The same rule applies to financial institutions, retail stores, laundromats, hardware stores, funerals, and restaurant dining rooms. While restaurants are allowed to operate Sundays, customers may only consume their product by means of carry-out, delivery or pick up those days.
Meanwhile, gas stations, hospitals, health centers, drugstores, and supermarkets are allowed to operate every day of the week, as long as they ensure mask use and sanitation protocols, and that customers are not "agglomerating" outside their businesses.
Churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship are allowed to provide their services every day, but Vázquez encouraged them to hold virtual religious gatherings if possible.
Banned Commercial Activities
Bars, casinos, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, game rooms, communal areas, and others shall remain closed for the remainder of the EO 2020-062.
Schools, both public and private, cannot resume in-classroom classes until there has been "sufficient evidence" that the spread of the virus has declined or stabilized. In the meantime, students may only take their classes remotely.
While mall food courts can operate their businesses, the seating area per se must be closed off. That is, these food establishments can only sell their products through pick-up or delivery. In addition, valet parking services are banned.
Any establishment, allowed or otherwise, that fails to follow through the executive order will be closed off for 30 days.
Beaches and Recreational Activities
Beaches, rivers, and other bodies of water are only open from Monday to Saturday for the exclusive use of singular sports or recreational activities, such as swimming, jogging, surfing, walking, and others. The executive order decrees that "neveritas" (portable fridges) and beach chairs are prohibited, given that these aquatic areas cannot be used for leisure.
Equestrian sports and races are allowed at 25 percent occupancy rate. Non-competitive sports are also allowed, as long as they are not performed in groups.
Citizens Exposed to Fees
The governor reiterated that the use of masks or protective cloth that covers the mouth and nose is mandatory for all residents and visitors who are outside their homes. Failure to comply with this provision is punishable by up to $100 for private citizens, and up to $500 for legal persons.
Vázquez warned that state and municipal police officers have been ordered to enforce compliance of this statute, with keen emphasis on the municipalities of San Juan and Carolina, particularly in tourism-prone areas like Isla Verde and Condado.
"We have to adjust to living a 'new normal,' a new reality," the governor said.
The announcement of this executive order comes three days after the primaries, in which Vázquez lost her bid for the gubernatorial race under the New Progressive Party.
At the time of this writing, the Puerto Rico Department of Health's coronavirus dashboard indicates that, since March, there have been 12,452 confirmed cases and 356 deaths out of a population estimated at just over 3 million.