On May 11, 2023, Puerto Rico Governor Hon. Pedro Pierluisi issued Executive Order No. 2023-012 (“EO 2023-012” or “EO”), through which he declared the end of the state of emergency caused by COVID-19.1 Governor Pierluisi reiterated, however, that the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health (“PR DOH”) retains the authority to publish and implement regulations, directives, administrative orders, protocols or recommendations to deal with COVID-19.
The same day, the Secretary of the PR DOH issued Administrative Order No. 571. The Administrative Order made vaccination and the use of face masks voluntary, in all sectors, including the healthcare sector. The PR DOH still recommends the use of vaccination, face masks, as well as distancing measures to reduce the exposure to COVID-19. Perhaps the most important and relevant aspect of Administrative Order No. 571 for employers is that the Secretary revoked Administrative Order No. 533, which implemented mandatory isolation guidelines for persons who tested positive for COVID-19 as well as quarantine guidelines for persons who were in close contact with a COVID-19-diagnosed individual.
Employers must also be aware that with the Governor’s declaration of the end of the state of emergency, the recognition of the special 5-day paid leave created under Act 37-2020 for COVID-19 cases in the workplace has also ended. Should another state of emergency based on an illness be declared, Act 37-2020 provisions, to wit, the special 5-day paid leave, would once again become available to employees. Furthermore, under the Administrative Order issued by the PR DOH, employers no longer have to report COVID-19 cases in the workforce and do not have to follow quarantine and isolation guidelines. Employers are still free to implement reasonable guidelines to manage COVID-19 illness in the workplace, to preserve their operations or for other legitimate business reasons.