Puerto Rico Map_PR1 (3) The latest changes will be in effect from Saturday until October 2. The use of face masks, social distancing, a 10 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, and the ban on crowding remain mandatory.
Graphic via Desirée Tapia for The Americano

Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced a wide reopening that allows the use of beaches and a limited opening of gyms, casinos, and movie theaters.

SAN JUAN—A wide reopening will take place in Puerto Rico starting on Saturday.

Governor Wanda Vázquez announced on Thursday new measures effective tomorrow, attributing her decision to a recent drop in COVID-19 cases.

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“From August 1 to 21 there were 6,173 positive cases, but from August 22 to September 10, 2,257 were registered, that’s a difference of 3,916 cases,” Vázquez said during a news conference.

These latest changes will be in effect from Saturday until October 2. The use of face masks, social distancing, a 10 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, and the ban on crowding remain mandatory.

The beaches will be open to the public, not just for people who are exercising. Under the latest rules, beachgoers should wear a face mask at all times, except in the water.

Businesses previously allowed to open at 25% capacity will now be able to increase the limit to 50%, including restaurants, car dealerships, churches, and funeral homes. In the case of restaurants with outdoor areas, the occupancy capacity will not be limited.

Vázquez ordered the reopening of gyms, casinos, and movie theaters at 25% capacity, and lifted a 24-hour lockdown on Sundays.

The sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets and authorized establishments is now allowed until 10:00 p.m.

The majority of government employees must return to their workplaces on September 14. Public schools will continue to hold classes online.

The governor also announced at the news conference the dissolution of the local Medical and Economic Task Forces. The Puerto Rico Health Department will be in charge of future recommendations.

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Dr. William Méndez, a member of the Medical Task Force, admitted on Friday that their team of experts did not recommend the reopening of gyms, casinos, and movie theaters.

“The Medical Task Force stands firmly by its recommendation of not allowing these activities to resume just yet,” Méndez said Friday morning during an interview with Radio Isla WSKN-AM.

Dr. Víctor Ramos, president of the Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons, said the commercial reopening will bring forth more cases of COVID-19 and more deaths despite security protocols.

The pediatrician said in an interview with Radio Isla that the government should have considered reopening schools before stores.

As of Friday, the Health Department reported 17,357 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19,224 possible cases. The island’s death toll is 523. Of those deaths, 359 are confirmed coronavirus deaths and 164 are from symptoms similar to a COVID infection. There are 401 people hospitalized.

Mapping Out the 17,357 Confirmed Cases as of Sep. 11