Joe and I have friends who live in the Miami-Dade area of Florida and when COVID hit, they both began working from home. The couple are responsible adults and were being very careful about not catching the virus. So when the number of cases in their county began going through the roof last summer, they decided to temporarily move to Puerto Rico.
This was the perfect solution for them; they could both still work from home (just a different, temporary home) and they were in a part of the U.S. where the residents were extraordinarily respectful of COVID rules. It was a win-win!
Puerto Rico’s response to coronavirus has been pretty severe, with lockdowns, curfews, and the closure of schools and non-essential businesses at various points in the last year. They were also one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to issue a mask mandate. Most importantly, their residents were overwhelmingly compliant with all that was asked of them to help mitigate the virus.
Their hard work has paid off since, with a population of roughly 3.2 million, they’ve only had 141,000 cases (that’s only roughly 5% of their population. In the 50 states of the U.S., 11.5% of the population has tested positive).
Puerto Rico is now open for tourism, albeit with rules for entry:
- Travelers entering any of the Island’s 3 open airports are required to fill out a Travel Declaration Form
- They must also get a PCR molecular COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to visiting the island and show proof of a negative result (or they must quarantine)
- Once on the island, social distancing and mask mandates remain in effect.
Puerto Rico has always been a popular travel spot for visitors from the U.S. mainland, particularly in the winter, since it’s a warm location. It’s even more popular now since (A) they’re accepting people from the mainland (B) flights are cheap and (C) since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it’s excluded from the CDC’s requirements for providing a negative COVID test result before returning home.
Unfortunately, some Americans are choosing not to comply with the island’s mandates. As per an NBC News report, some refuse to wear masks. They’re out past the midnight curfew. Some are also using drugs and having altercations with residents. And that’s causing concern for both residents and government entities of Puerto Rico.
So now they’re fighting back.
The Puerto Rican government has begun to impose a $100 fine for anyone who’s not wearing a face mask in tourist areas. That includes outdoor public areas, as well as indoor establishments that require face coverings.
To ensure that fines will be levied, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said he’s stationing more than 3,500 officers in tourist areas and 1,100 National Guard members will be stationed throughout the island. They will be ready to issue the fines for non-mask usage, as well as arrest those who are involved in altercations.
USA Today reports that municipal police officers have arrested 27 people in these tourist areas for drug possession and violent behavior since the plan has taken place. There is no word on how many mask fines have gone out so far, but unfortunately, I suspect there will eventually be plenty.
Feature Photo: Dmitry K / flickr
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary