Puerto Rico Imposes Additional COVID-19 Restrictions and Vaccine Booster Mandates on Private Sector Employers

In his most recent attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, on January 13, 2022, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi once again issued back-to-back executive orders (EO) implementing additional COVID-19 restrictions and extending vaccine booster requirements for employees in additional sectors.

EO 2022-002 – Attendance and Capacity Restrictions

EO 2022-002 extends the applicability of EO 2021-085 until February 2, 2022, maintaining the same capacity restrictions for bars, “chinchorros,” small cafeterias, sport bars, theaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention centers, community or activity centers, casinos and any other establishment that serves food or beverages. This EO, however, provides that, from January 17, 2022 forward, government agencies and other private business operations serving the public in a closed setting, such as retail businesses, supermarkets, grocery stores, funeral services, and financial, community, customer service, professional and non-professional offices, among others, must operate at a maximum occupancy of 75% of the total capacity of the establishment. Outdoor spaces may operate without the occupancy limitation, provided that physical distancing of six feet can be met.

This EO also extends the validity of EO 2021-086, which limits capacity of mass activities and business hours for private entities until February 2, 2022. Additionally, this EO provides that any activity involving 250 individuals or less held in theaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention or activity centers, whether indoors or outdoors, requires individuals in attendance to provide one of the following: 1) proof of full vaccination, which now includes vaccine boosters, if eligible; 2) a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken no more than 48 hours before the event; or 3) a positive COVID-19 test result from the previous three months with documentation of recovery. Importantly, any activity with more than 250 individuals in attendance requires prior authorization from the Department of Health.1

EO 2022-003 – Booster Requirements for Hospitality and Entertainment Sectors

Employees in hotels, hostels, theaters, cinemas, coliseums, convention centers and any other activity center must receive their vaccine booster by February 15, 2022. This is applicable to employees, owners, merchants, administrators, contractors and volunteers who work in person at any of the mentioned sectors. Employees must either provide proof of vaccination, provide negative COVID-19 test2 results every seven days or provide a positive COVID-19 test result from the previous three months with documentation of recovery. Noneligible employees will have 30 days after they become eligible to comply with this EO. Those who do not comply with the mentioned requirements will not be able to work in person. Employers are encouraged to allow their employees to be vaccinated during working hours and grant them time as necessary to take care of side effects, if any.

Additional Health Sector Incentive

Although not mentioned in any of the above-referenced executive orders, the governor also announced a new $600 incentive for healthcare personnel in public and private hospitals and employees assisting in the Department of Health’s contact tracing system. Employees are eligible for this incentive if they are working in person and have had a maximum income of $55,000 during 2021. The incentive is available for full-time employees and independent contractors who meet certain hour requirements. Eligible employees who receive this assistance will be required to continue working at their hospital for at least three months after receiving the incentive. Hospitals will proffer these requests to the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF). AAFAF will begin the process of receiving applications and the payments will be made in late January through February. Hospitals will receive guidance on the applicable terms and conditions and how to request this incentive from the AAFAF on behalf of their employees.

See Footnotes

1 Applicants must submit requests for a waiver five business days prior to the date of the activity.

2 From a viral test SARS-CoV-2-qualified test.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.