Facing declining cases, Puerto Rico eases COVID-19 restrictions
Puerto Rico has been a model territory for the world whilst battling the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past few months with a decrease in COVID-19 cases, the US territory has decided to relinquish its mask mandate. Puerto Rico is one of the last places in the United States, its territories, and the rest of the world to end the mandate.
On March 14, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D), released a statement saying that citizens and visitors to Puerto Rico wouldn’t need to wear masks in most indoor places and while outside. Due to a severe decrease in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and high vaccination rates, the Governor felt that the health system isn’t compromised any longer.
Similar to the continental United States, Puerto Rico also experienced an extreme rise in COVID-19 cases and local hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant. However, cases soon decreased in late January, which prompted Governor Pierluisi to allow the mask mandate to be lifted. Although the mask mandate has been lifted, the US island territory continues to advocate about the protections of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourages citizens to wear masks while in indoor places where vaccination status is unknown amongst other people.
Puerto Rican public schools were some of the first amongst the United States and their territories to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students to attend school, hoping to combat the pandemic in Puerto Rico by mandating at-least one dose of the vaccine. However, even with the mask mandate ending in Puerto Rico, the health department might still require students in schools to wear masks. In regards to vaccination status, students who aren’t vaccinated will now be allowed to return to school.
A large reason for Puerto Rico’s decision to forgo the mandate is that Puerto Rico has been one of the leading places in the world for vaccination rates the past few months. This is partially to do with their effective vaccine campaign, which led to 95% of their population having had at least one vaccine shot.