Puerto Rico sets the example in COVID-19 vaccine regulations
With a 69.2% fully vaccinated population, Puerto Rico’s government and its preventative regulations are showing more progress towards herd immunity compared to the mainland.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) announced on August 11 through an Executive Order that all food and drink store or business employees will have to be vaccinated and customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Though employees are required to be vaccinated, businesses that do not require vaccine proof or negative tests will only be allowed to open at 50% capacity. A day later, Gov. Pierluisi also released an Executive Order requiring vaccination of all employees of beauty salons, barbershops, nail salons, spas, gyms, daycare centers, supermarkets, markets, casinos, and gas station convenience stores, with the same capacity requirements if the business does not require customers for proof applying only to salons, barbershops, nail salons, spas, gyms, and casinos.
Workers and business owners that do not comply with the regulations can face up to 6 months in jail or a maximum of a $5,000 fine. Employees with medical or religious exemptions will have to show weekly negative COVID-19 tests, or a positive test and a medical letter certifying their recovery.
The aforementioned workers will have to either show their vaccination card or Vacu-ID, a government certification that will be distributed via the islands’ Driver Service Center’s online application (known better by its Spanish acronym CESCO). However, the system of Vacu-ID brings its problems as well. Users reported on the announcement day that the site had crashed multiple times due to the number of workers attempting to get their credentials. Along with that, the Vacu-ID credential is not available for those who were vaccinated in the mainland United States due to the webpage being based on the Puerto Rico Immunization Registry (PRIR) run by the Puerto Rican Department of Health.
The territory’s Department of Health told local paper El Vocero that they were currently looking to integrate their system with those of other states and find a solution for those who were vaccinated stateside, but it would be months until a concrete response could be finalized.
The Executive Order has shined a spotlight on the businesses who’ve openly stated they will not ask for Vacu-ID or vaccination cards, with many so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ applauding them. While announcements by restaurants on social media sites like Instagram to announce their 50% capacity were overtaken by comments congratulating the businesses on the move, many deleted the posts afterward as a result of the backlash.
Instagram influencer @paolalandron had to privatize her account after backlash against Instagram stories lauding businesses that would be reducing their capacity and not requiring patrons to show their Vacu-ID or vaccination cards.
Along with the online movement of anti-vaxxers, those who oppose the Executive Order went on Monday to the islands’ Capitol building to protest the mandatory vaccinations for employees.