Puerto Rico to lift mask mandate as COVID-19 cases ease

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor announced Monday that he is ending a requirement for mask use indoors for the second time since the pandemic began as the number of cases and hospitalizations ease.

The change will take effect Thursday with a few exceptions. Face masks will still be required in health facilities and nursing homes.

In addition, starting March 10, domestic travelers will no longer have to present proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test or fill out a currently required form.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi also will lift all capacity restrictions at public and private businesses and said proof of vaccination to enter will no longer be required. He added that vaccination requirements for people including public school students, restaurant employees and health workers will be lifted.

Puerto Rico's Scientific Coalition, a group of experts appointed by the governor to advise him during the pandemic, said it agreed with some of the measures announced but said the vaccine mandates for certain groups and proof of vaccination for events of 1,000 people or more should be kept in place.

It also advised that masks should be worn in enclosed places that serve the public such as airports, buses and others.

“We're still facing uncertain scenarios in the context of variants,” said Dr. Iris Cardona, a coalition member.

The U.S. territory of 3.2 million people has reported a 4% positivity rate, a significant drop from the nearly 40% reported during the holiday season.

Pierluisi said more than 95% of people in Puerto Rico have received a first vaccine dose, 86% a second dose, and more than 50% a booster shot.

The island has reported more than 267,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 4,000 deaths from COVID-19.