Puerto Rico Reopens After Drop In COVID Cases, But…

by SharonKurheg

Puerto Rico, which had struggled with its coronavirus numbers over the summer but then saw them start to get better, reopened its beaches, casinos, movie theaters and gyms on Saturday, September 12.

The island’s numbers of residents with COVID-19 were doing well in mid-late June, when new cases in the single and double digits were the norm. The U.S. territory even had plans to join other Caribbean islands that were opening for tourism in mid-July. But the relaxation of restrictions for residents in late spring and early summer caused a spike in numbers. Instead of reopening, they had to go in the other direction, with progressive bans on alcohol sales, nightly curfews and even eventual 24-hour lockdowns on Sundays.

However, their number of cases has since improved, so effective September 12, Puerto Rico has reopened its beaches, casinos, gyms and movie theaters, albeit with social distancing and capacity limits in place, as well as with stringent mask use requirements. The lockdown on Sundays also ended, although the island-wide nightly curfews from 10 pm to 5am are continuing.

This new change will be on something of a trial basis through October 2, when their numbers will be reassessed.

Governor Wanda Vazquez said there were nearly 4,000 less COVID-19 cases in comparison to the previous counts during the four weeks leading up to August 22. She also reported 162 deaths recorded between August 1st and 22nd, compared with 88 deaths during the period from August 22nd to September 10th.

The entire island has not reopened for business. Bars, clubs, discos and cafes remain closed. Restaurants, malls and retail shops are allowed to open at 50% capacity. Museums can now also operate at 50% capacity, but theaters, casinos and gym facilities will be limited to 25% capacity during this trial time.

Independent health experts are skeptical about what the results of this experiment will be, since similar reopenings in June are what led to their spike in cases in July.  The island also still has minimal contact tracing or monitoring systems in place and businesses are going to be expected to be self-regulating.

Dr. José Rodríguez Orengo, of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, told The Associated Press that the pandemic on the island has improved in the past three weeks, but “It’s all going to depend on people’s behavior to maintain that.”

Governor Vazquez agreed, saying, “We cannot lower our guard. There’s an invisible enemy in our environment, and we have to learn to deal with him.”

Although Puerto Rico never officially shut down their borders, they’ve historically only encouraged essential travel since the pandemic began. Before tourism can start, the island will need to have their numbers under control, even when certain establishments are open. Our fingers are crossed for them.

Feature Photo: pxhere

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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