Loosening of COVID-19 Restrictions
New Order or Decree
As businesses reopen, face coverings remain popular as a preventative measure. Numerous jurisdictions across the country have encouraged – or mandated – citizens to wear face coverings when out in public, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained effectively. Some directives also obligate employers to provide masks to their employees. Puerto Rico has adopted the CDC guidance for masks and fully vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated individuals in closed spaces that do not serve the public are not required to use masks if all individuals inside the closed area are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to use masks when outdoors. Mask use is recommended for individuals who are not fully vaccinated, even when outdoors.
Additionally, Puerto Rico has continued to relax COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. For example, Executive Order 2021-043, in effect from June 7, 2021 until July 4, 2021, relaxed the maximum capacity limits for establishments and the mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.
Quarantine and Isolation Defined in Executive Orders
The terms “quarantine” and “isolation” have become ubiquitous during the COVID-19 pandemic and while they are sometimes used interchangeably, they are indeed different. Regulation 125 of Puerto Rico’s Department of Health (Department of Health) provides distinct definitions for each term, setting forth the applicable procedures and penalty for noncompliance. As applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health has issued preliminary guidelines, specifying the duration of quarantine and isolation periods required because of COVID-19 infection, exposure or suspected exposure, which, in turn, also depend on specified circumstances.
Puerto Rico has followed, yet sometimes expanded, the CDC’s guidelines for quarantine and isolation. While the definitions for quarantine and isolation in Regulation 125 closely resemble those of the CDC, the Department of Health’s guidelines are silent as to the required duration of quarantine and isolation. As such, Executive Orders issued by the Governor during the COVID-19 pandemic have filled this void.