Current Status on Puerto Rico Amid the Coronavirus Crisis
Coronavirus – It seems to be everywhere, and it is all you hear about in the news. Maybe you have a trip planned to Puerto Rico, and you are trying to decide if you should keep your reservations. Maybe it is too late to cancel your reservations. Maybe you have already decided to make the trip regardless. In any case, you are looking for information so you can understand the current situation is here on the island. We are here to help.
There are plenty of authoritative resources available that explain how to help protect yourself and others around you, and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus – we’re not going to rehash that info. Instead, we hope to provide some insight into life in Puerto Rico during the coronavirus and COVID-19 crisis.
Things are changing here daily, almost hourly in some cases. We will do our best to keep this article up-to-date as we hear about changes.
I heard that Puerto Rico has is under a State of Emergency. What does that mean?
The local government is taking immediate steps to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the island. On 12 March 2020, the governor of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency (PDF) in response to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
On 15 March 2020, the governor issued an executive order enacting an island-wide lock-down by ordering curfews and the closure of non-essential businesses. Read that executive order in English (PDF) or in Spanish (PDF).
On 26 March 2020, the governor extended the island-wide lockdown, and made the rules more strict.
As one would expect, these orders have set off a bit of panic here on the island, as have similar declarations in the rest of the country (and world).
In broad terms, it means that additional government funds can be allocated to aid in the crisis, the National Guard’s resources can be used to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus on the island, people are being required to stay at home, and away from crowds, as much as possible, there are restrictions on “going out and about”, and events and activities that involve crowds or large numbers of people are being cancelled or postponed. Just like everywhere else in the world.
In practical terms, it means that until at least 12 April 2020 …
- There is an island-wide curfew in place for all non-essential personnel. Currently, that curfew is from 9pm to 5am. Beginning 31 March 2020, the curfew will be from 7pm to 5am. The fine for breaking curfew is $5000.
- People are only permitted “out and about” for food shopping, medical reasons, to get gasoline, to pick up prepared food, going to bank/post office, or to go to work (for essential personnel). At all other times, you should remain in your house. No beach walk, no walking around the block, nothing. Beginning 31 March 2020, travel on the roads will be restricted based on the last digit of your license plate. If your license plate ends in an even digit, you are permitted on the road Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If your license plate ends in an odd digit, you are permitted on the road Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The even/odd restriction does not apply to medical, health, or “essential” work travel.
- All businesses island-wide except supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, and banks must remain closed. Beginning 31 March 2020, supermarkets will be closed on Sundays.
- Restaurants can be open if they can serve food via drive-through or take-out – but no in-facility food service is permitted. This includes “drinks at the bar” while waiting for your take-out food.
- Commercial passenger airlines may only land at the Luís Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) in Carolina. Commercial passenger planes cannot land at Aguadilla, Culebra, nor Vieques.
- All passengers arriving in Puerto Rico are required to go into a 24/7 14-day lockdown. Individuals will not be allowed to participate in any activity that requires them to leave their hotels or homes.
- All attractions must remain closed, and all tours/excursions must be cancelled.
- Public transportation (buses, Tren Urbano) has been suspended. Uber and taxis WILL be operating.
- Transportation to Culebra and Vieques is only for residents of those islands, as well as food, supplies, etc.
- Public schools are cancelling classes.
- All colleges and universities are cancelling classes, and many are moving those classes online.
We do have suspected cases (and a number we are still awaiting results), and a number of confirmed cases, of COVID-19 here in Puerto Rico. Those patients are receiving medical care in local hospitals.
What should you do if you feel sick while in Puerto Rico?
If you are in Puerto Rico and have symptoms that you suspect to be COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breathe), call 787.999.6202. Do NOT go directly to an emergency room (ER) unless you have a true life-threatening emergency. If you have symptoms and are going to visit a doctor (or the ER), it is best to call ahead and tell them what you are experiencing. They will advise you on the best course of action.
Impact on Flights & the Airport
Flying between Puerto Rico and the mainland US is considered a domestic flight. So, those flights are still flying. Federally mandated international flight restrictions apply to Puerto Rico as they do in the States.
As part of the state of emergency declaration, starting on Monday, 16 March 2020, the National Guard is supposed to be screening all passengers arriving by air for symptoms at the airport. We have not heard of any special processing for passengers leaving Puerto Rico by air.
Ubers and Taxis are allowed to transport people to the airport all hours (including curfew).
Effective 11:59pm on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, commercial passenger airlines may only land at the Luís Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) in Carolina. Commercial passenger planes cannot land at Aguadilla, Culebra, nor Vieques. All passengers arriving in Puerto Rico are required to go into a 24/7 14-day lockdown. Individuals will not be allowed to participate in any activity that requires them to leave their hotels or homes.
Impact on Cruise Ships
Cruise ports are closed to cruise ships, this includes the “ferry” to the Dominican Republic. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem given that most major cruise lines are suspending service worldwide until mid-April or so.
Impact on the Travel To/From Culebra & Vieques
As part of the state of emergency declaration, only residents of Culebra and Vieques are permitted on the respective ferries from/to Ceiba. Tourists and other non-residents will be turned away at the ferry dock. All non-residents must be off of Culebra and/or Vieques by 16 March 2020.
Effective 11:59pm on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, commercial passenger airlines may only land at the Luís Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) in Carolina. Commercial passenger planes cannot land at Aguadilla, Culebra, nor Vieques. The airports in Culebra, Vieques, and Ceiba are effectively shut down.
Impact at Stores & Shopping Centers
Beginning 31 March 2020, supermarkets will be closed on Sundays
Just like everywhere else, people are panic-shopping. Expect long lines and sparse shelves, especially in food stores. The supply chain for food and other goods has not been impacted, so stores should be re-stocked in the coming days. Like everywhere, anti-viral and anti-bacterial products (wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.) are in short supply. Some stores are limiting quantities of some products (bottled water, bleach, etc).
What is Closed?
As previously mentioned, all non-essential businesses must remain closed. That means that tours and attractions must remain closed. It really doesn’t matter what is open, because unless you’re going out for food or to the doctor, you are not permitted to be out.
Many restaurants are making plans to provide food as drive-through or carry-out. Call ahead to place your order and go pick it up. Let’s help support the few businesses that are allowed to remain open.
What Has Been Cancelled and/or Postponed?
As part of the state of emergency declaration, there is an order to postpone or cancel all mass gathering events in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. In keeping with that order, festivals, events, and activities involving a large number of people are being cancelled or postponed.
Coronavirus / COVID-19 Resources
There are plenty of authoritative resources for info on the new coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are a few…
- Coronavirus & COVID-19 info from the CDC
- Coronavirus & COVID-19 info from the World Health Organization
- Coronavirus Dashboard by Avi Schiffmann
- Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the CSSE at Johns Hopkins University
PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it!