Light At The End Of The Tunnel: Puerto Rico Government Eliminates Most COVID-19 Restrictions

Publication Date14 March 2022
SubjectFood, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Coronavirus (COVID-19), Government Measures
Law FirmLittler Mendelson
AuthorMs Anabel Rodríguez-Alonso, Irene Viera Matta and Alberto Tabales-Maldonado

With COVID-19 positivity rates falling below 3.4%, on March 7, 2022, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi issued Executive Order 2022-019 (EO), drastically changing previously issued COVID-19 measures and guidelines by eliminating most requirements regarding masks, capacity limits and vaccination mandates. This EO delegates any additional COVID-19 restrictions to the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH) via administrative orders. Consequently, on March 8, 2022, the PRDOH issued Administrative Order 2022-533 (AO) providing further guidelines on COVID-19 restrictions. Both the EO and AO take effect March 10, 2022. The following are the most important employer takeaways from both orders.

Vaccine and Booster Mandates

All vaccine and booster mandates are no longer in effect and are now recommendations only. Employers that must comply with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccination rule, however, must continue to require proof of vaccination. Private and public employers may implement the precautionary measures they deem necessary, including requiring proof of vaccination for employees and visitors. Such measures are subject to any medical and religious exemptions.

Mask Mandates

Mask mandates are eliminated in exterior and interior areas. However, masks mandates are still in place for both visitors and employees of 1) healthcare facilities,1 2) assisted living facilities for the elderly, 3) centers that tend to individuals with intellectual disabilities, 4) correctional facilities, 5) public transit, 6) childcare centers, and 7) public and private schools when inside a closed facility. Private and public employers may implement the precautionary measures they deem necessary, including implementing mask mandates. Establishments may not prohibit mask use. The PRDOH continues to encourage individuals to use masks in areas where vaccination status cannot be confirmed. Private and public employers must provide reasonable accommodation for hearing-impaired individuals. These measures may include, but are not limited to, removing masks briefly to achieve effective non-verbal communication.

Quarantine and Isolation Measures

The PRDOH reinforced recently issued quarantine and isolations guidelines pursuant to CDC recommendations. The AO also emphasizes that the PRDOH reserves the right to amend...

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