Key Takeaways from Puerto Rico’s Latest COVID-19-Related Executive Order

Balancing the recommendations of the Medical and Economic Task Forces convened to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor of Puerto Rico Hon. Wanda Vazquez-Garced on April 12, 2020 issued Executive Order 2020-033 (“EO” or the “Order”). While the priority continues to be curbing the spread of COVID-19, this Order attempts to slowly restart the economic sector. Generally, the Order extends the lockdown and curfew measures, but also adds exceptions to the application of the Order and expands certain business hours of operation, thus allowing certain services and industries to operate. Failure to comply with the EO may result in penalties.

EO 2020-33 introduced the following changes:1

  1. Extends the current lockdown until May 3, 2020. During this time, absent an emergency, every citizen must stay at home, 24/7, and can only go out between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. for one of the following listed reasons:
    • To attend medical appointments, or to travel to the hospital or laboratory.
    • To acquire food, medicines and/or first aid products.
    • To go to any of the establishments exempt from the application of the Order for necessary or urgent purposes.
    • To receive any of the exempt services specified in the Order.
    • To offer any of the exempt services specified in the Order.
  2. Extends the closure of government operations through May 3, 2020, except as otherwise provided. The Order, however, encourages the government agencies to establish teleworking policies.
  3. EO 2020-33 exempts the following commercial establishments from the Order’s application and/or modifies their hours of operation:
    • Supermarkets can open Monday through Saturday, from 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Nevertheless, supermarket delivery will be permitted until 10:00 p.m. in order to encourage home delivery and avoid in-person visits to stores. Supermarket operations on Sundays shall be limited to re-stocking, cleaning and disinfecting. 
    • Those companies that offer repair services and sale of vehicle parts may operate on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., by appointment coordinated by telephone and/or electronic means and only to handle emergencies. They can receive only one client at a time, and may not open the establishment to the general public.
    • Hardware stores may operate on Fridays and Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., only by appointment coordinated through telephone or electronic means. These establishments can receive only one client at a time and cannot open to the general public. Also, they must coordinate the sale and delivery of merchandise in advance.
    • Any textile company that manufactures uniforms, footwear, components or equipment for the U.S. Department of Defense, or that manufactures personal protective equipment (e.g., face masks, hats, gowns, gloves, and other clothing used for health protection) may operate as long as it complies with the protocols established by the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  4. The following services are also now exempt from compliance with the lockdown:
    • Telecommunication companies are now also allowed to provide repair services, delivery, replacement of equipment and technology necessary to maintain communication via telephone, cell phone, internet, cable TV or antennas, provided that certain requirements are met and that appointments with customers are coordinated in advance.
    • Businesses engaged in the export of non-essential merchandise may do so as long as they are limited to existing inventory.
  5. If, because of the pandemic, the Board of Directors of a corporation organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico wants to change the date or location of a shareholder’s meeting that was notified pursuant to Article 7.12(A) of the General Corporations Law, the corporation shall notify its shareholders via email, press release, radio, principal newspapers, telephone call and/or a combination of the above. For public corporations, notice may be made through a document filed publicly with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as required by law, and via press release posted on the corporation’s web site immediately after its publication.  The notification of the changes in date and location of the meetings will be permitted until the state of emergency is declared over.
  6. Every person who visits an establishment as authorized by this EO shall take the following security measures:
    • Use equipment or clothing to cover their mouths and nose.
    • Maintain a distance of at least six feet between them and others.
    • Avoid groups of people in authorized establishments.  To achieve this, the number of people permitted in an establishment shall be limited to one visitor per household. This will not apply to those individuals who need assistance from someone because of a physical disability or a condition that justifies it.
  7. Private establishments authorized to operate under the limitations of this EO shall comply with the following measures:
    • Make sure that the clients use the equipment or clothing to cover their mouth and nose and prevent anyone who is not using this protection from entering the establishment.
    • Provide disinfectant stations or mechanisms so that visitors can disinfect their hands while in the establishment.
    • Make sure that the visitors are keeping a distance of at least six feet between them and others while outside the establishment or inside.
    • In the case of supermarkets and pharmacies, special hours should be set for clients who are age 65 years or older.
  8. The following individuals are now also expressly exempt from compliance with the lockdown:
    • Municipal police.
    • Members of the Vigilante Corps of the Natural and Environmental Resources Department (DRNA).
    • Internal Affairs agents of the Department of Treasury.
    • Legal representatives of individuals charged with a felony and subpoenaed to appear in court.
    • Persons with autism are authorized for therapeutic reasons to take short walks in zones close to their residence and shall be accompanied by only one person.
  9. Exclusively on April 14, 2020, between 5:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., an employer may authorize five employees to process payroll ending April 2020. Employers shall identify the necessary personnel who will be able to go to the workplace for this purpose only. 
  10. Exclusively on April 16, 2020, between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., individuals will be exempted from the EO in order to go to the workplace to take materials and equipment necessary to telecommute, as well as to give said materials to the corresponding employees. Employers shall identify the necessary personnel who can go to the workplace for this purpose only. 

NOTE: Because the COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with new governmental measures each day, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on this topic.

See Footnotes

1 The terms in which the services or industries previously authorized to operate by previous executive orders may have undergone slight changes. Therefore, for guidance on the specifications applicable to a particular service/industry, please seek legal advice.

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.