Amidst surge of COVID-19 Cases, Puerto Rico increases vaccination requirements
On December 22, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pieruluisi (NPP, D) issued two new Executive Orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. As of December 21, Puerto Rico has logged a seven-day average of 1,350 COVID-19 cases. This surge reflects wider trends of increases in COVID-19 due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
Both new executive orders attempt to limit the transmission of COVID-19 by introducing new requirements for commercial venues. In the past months, Puerto Rico has experienced a record increase in retail sales due to an influx of pandemic recovery funding and a decrease in COVID-19 restrictions. The commercial focus of Pierluisi’s executive orders appears to recognize these trends as potential contributors to the spread of COVID-19. In turn, both look to limit gathering and promote vaccination in commercial contexts. Executive Order 2021-080 requires commercial establishments that host group activities, such as theaters and convention centers, to require visitors to produce a COVID-19 vaccination record and a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of attendance. The order also requires any commercial venue hosting more than 500 people to liaise directly with the Puerto Rico Health Department. Simultaneously, Executive Order 2021-081 applies to retail establishments with high rates of gathering, such as restaurants, bars, spas, and gyms. It will require patrons to provide either a proof of vaccination, a negative test result from the last 48 hours, or a positive test result from the last three months, with proof of recovery.
Executive Order 2021-081 also influences requirements related to entrance into Puerto Rico. International entrants will continue to follow federal requirements under the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Non-US citizens or immigrants will also be required to be vaccinated and present either a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of their flight, or a positive COVID-19 test taken from 90 days before their flight, with proof of recovery. US entrants to Puerto Rico will face new requirements under the Executive Order. Passengers must possess proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test from the last 48 hours or a positive test from the last three months with proof of recovery. If unvaccinated, domestic entrants must possess a negative test result and quarantine for seven days after arrival.
With 83% of Puerto Rico’s residents having taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the territory remains in the top three US jurisdictions in terms of vaccination rates. Coupled with the recent executive orders, these high vaccination rates are hoped to prevent a rise in hospitalization and death rates as the Omicron variant continues to spread.