In response to the global pandemic of COVID-19 (Corona virus), Puerto Rico Government ordered a full island-wide lockdown of all non-essential business activity starting Monday, March 16, 2020.
What is it really like on Puerto Rico during the island wide lockdown? I started a video series to document lockdown life in Puerto Rico each week. I will continue to add videos to the playlist and corresponding written updates as we go.
I am not a medical Doctor, or Doctor of any kind. This is not medical advice, merely I am sharing a glimpse into my Lockdown island life in Puerto Rico during the COVID-19 crisis.
Week 1 – March 16, 2020
Announcements started March 13 & 14, 2020 that the Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, would issue Executive Orders ordering non-essential businesses to completely shut down in response to growing concerns over spread of COVID-19.
Starting Monday, March 16, 2020 the first Executive Order from the Governor began the island wide lockdown until March 30, 2020.
This order closed the port in San Juan, denying cruise ships denied entry to dock in Puerto Rico. All non-essential businesses were immediately closed. An island wide curfew was issued starting at 9 pm until 5 am. Beaches, parks, malls, churches, retail store, and more are all closed.
Only essential businesses such as medical, pharmacy, banking, gas stations, and grocery stores/food take-out are allowed to operate (on restricted operating schedule).
Week 2 – March 23, 2020
Still under the island wide curfew starting at 9 pm until 5 am for shelter in place orders. Only essential workers are allowed to by out unless people are out for essential business such as medical appointment, pharmacy, banking, and grocery stores/food take-out. Telemedicine is strongly encouraged and more doctors offices are encouraging phone calls, rather than walk ins.
Rules, restrictions are fines are changing (it seems like everyday) and fines are now being issued at $5,000 per person per incident for breaking the lockdown orders.
Beaches are patrolled and cleared by police officers arresting or issuing fines for anyone breaking lockdown orders.
Week 3 – March 30, 2020
The lockdown is extended and the rules have changed, starting week 3 of island wide lockdown with further restrictions. The curfew in Puerto Rico is now starting 2 hours earlier, from 7 pm until 5 am. All business are closed on Sundays including grocery stores, only hospitals, pharmacy pick-up and gas stations are allowed to operate on Sunday.
There is a new car license plate restriction, where cars are only allowed on the road 3 days a week, based on the last digit on your license plate. Even digits are only allowed to be out on the road Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, odd digits get the remaining Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and everyone is prohibited on Sunday.
There are hefty fines and penalties for breaking curfew or being outside for non-essential business. Only essential businesses such as medical, pharmacy, banking, and grocery stores/food take-out are allowed to operate.
This is the first time I am leaving the house during lockdown. I left on my assgned driving day to drive up to San Juan for medical pick-up, grocery shopping in Caguas CostCo, and additional shopping at the local Ralph’s grocery store in Humacao. This is a stock-up trip so that I can remain at home (shelter in place) for the next 3 weeks since lockdown was extended.
Week 4 – April 6, 2020
The island wide curfew in Puerto Rico is still in place from 7 pm until 5 am. Businesses are still closed on Sundays, and cars are only allowed on the road 3 days a week, based on the last digit on your license plate.
There are still hefty fines and penalties for breaking curfew or being outside for non-essential business, and there is definitely an uptick in police calls and police vehicles on the roads and in residential communities. Only essential businesses such as medical, pharmacy, banking, and grocery stores/food take-out are allowed to operate Monday through Saturday. Sunday is only for medical emergencies.
Face masks are now required for going to the grocery store and being in public, except that you can’t buy face masks anywhere. Like me, many of my crafty friends are sewing & making face masks. Normally, most stores and businesses close for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year, all businesses are closed the entire weekend including Good Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday. There was a last minute amendment, that granted restaurants to offer pick-up or delivery food service for the weekend.
The normal lockdown restrictions resume on Easter Monday, but rules and orders are changing every day so who knows what additional restrictions will be added next week.
Week 5 – April 13, 2020
The Governor issued new Executive Orders with big changes to the lockdown!
- The island wide curfew in Puerto Rico is extended back to 9 pm until 5 am**, and grocery deliveries are allowed up to 10 PM.
- The license plate restriction is eliminated.
- Supermarkets and grocery stores may remain open Monday through Saturday until 8:00 pm and close on Sundays.
- Pharmacies may operate from 5 am to 9 pm Mondays through Saturdays. Restricted hours and operations on Sunday.
- Veterinary offices are open Monday through Friday, restricted hours for emergency services only.
- Gas stations may operate 5 am to 9 pm
- Auto parts, repair and tire service centers may operate Wednesday and Thursday between 9 am to 5 pm.
- Hardware stores may operate Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Residential services include plumbing, electrical, appliance replacement and repairs, pest control, pool maintenance, landscaping and services necessary for health, security and essential operations are allowed with 5 am to 9 pm. Individuals providing these services must wear masks and gloves.
**Within 24 hours of enjoying the new 9 pm curfew, the Governor of Puerto Rico issued an Executive Order amendment to change the rules back to the earlier 7PM curfew. Seriously, the rules change daily and sometimes even more often!
Face masks are required for entering any commercial establishments.
Lockdown is extended until Sunday, May 3, 2020 (but changes can and do happen frequently).
Week 6 – April 20, 2020
After the Governor announced via Executive Order that hardware stores may operate Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, I was able to place an online order for gardening supplies at Home Depot! The system allows you to place your order, submit payment, then sends a confirmation number with date & time to pick up the order. Upon entering the parking lot, the staff confirm your order and the date & time for pick up, then vehicles are directed to the new drive thru area where employees load your order into your vehicle without you ever leaving your vehicle!
Beaches, golf courses, public parks, and any recreational activity outside the home (including community pools) are still closed. Walking and biking outside are prohibited, but some people are risking fines or arrest by going outside.
Since hair salons and barbershops are closed (non-essential business), I decided to give myself a haircut during lockdown. This little trim was exactly what I needed to tame my mane during lockdown!
Life is getting better and more businesses are re-opening, with modified operating hours and safety protocols, but they are open!
Face masks are still required for entering any commercial establishments. Lockdown is extended until Sunday, May 3, 2020, and there is a recommendation to extend Lockdown protocols through June (no official announcement, yet).
Week 7 – April 27, 2020
More businesses and services are resuming service including appliance delivery and other essential services. Small local business that do not fall into the essential businesses definition are getting creative to sell products for pickup orders with limited human interaction, or completely without interaction. Many small business are struggling, unable to get any assistance from SBA loans, and are working to find solutions to see products, gift certificates, or pick-up orders without breaking lockdown restrictions.
Outside activities are prohibited and enforced even for riding bikes and walking the dog. There are a few nosy neighbors that are calling security on anyone violating the stay at home orders.
Face masks are required for entering any commercial establishments. Lockdown is in effect until Sunday, May 3, 2020 (and there is a recommendation to extend Lockdown protocols through June, but the official updates have not been communicated as of filming this video).
Week 8 – May 4, 2020
An new Executive Order, plus at least 2 amendments are issued to ease restrictions and slowly reduce lockdown.
The biggest change is that we are now allowed to walk or bike around our homes without fear of a $5,000 fine or arrest! Recently, many people around the island have been riding bicycles to run errands, or at least saying they are running approved errands while out for a ride. Many more people were simply walking around the block for fresh air and exercise, police officers and security were turning a blind eye to this activity, unless a nosy neighbor reported it, then they were issuing (mostly) verbal warnings.
All of the changes below are a staggered approach to reopen the island and resume business without compromising safety and health.
- Walking and bicycle riding near your home, while maintaining 6 feet apart from other people, is finally allowed!
- Parks, golf courses, and beaches are still closed.
- Financial services, insurance, professional services as lawyers, notary service, accountants, engineers, and real estate may reopen for clients with an appointment (one person at a time).
- Laundry, labs, vehicle inspection centers, A/C service, and appliance repair may provide services from 9am to 5pm.
- Hardware stores and auto shops may open by appointment Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. They were already open beyond the allowed 2 days a week due to demade, and now they are no longer in violation of the lockdown for the additional days of operation.
- Dental offices, optometrists, primary medical services and medical specialist may open by appointment.
- All activities for big crowds (more than 10 people) are still suspended and subject to a $5,000 fine if caught.
- Curfew remains from 7 PM to 5 AM until May 25th (until a new order is issued to extend again).
Starting May 11th Construction and manufacturing may resume operations including road repairs, AEE & AAA repair works, cement stores and all construction related work. There was another earthquake in the Southwest side of the island on Saturday, May 2, 2020 (5.0 magnitude near Guanica, Puerto Rico) that will greatly benefit from construction operations resuming for the earthquake damage.
There is a plan that additional businesses will be evaluated to open, depending on the numbers of infected, including barbershops, beauty salons, religious services, malls and funerals services.
Restaurant dine in will be evaluated with guidance for reopening. Currently, restaurants are only allowed to serve take out and delivery (no dine in allowed).
Week 9 – May 11, 2020
Week 9 begins road construction and more businesses finding creative ways to reopen while keeping employees and customers safe.
We drove out to Cabo Rojo for some hiking, quick stop in Mayagüez for take out lunch and cocktails, plus a bonus stop at Krispy Kreme drive thru for iced coffee and doughnuts!
On the way home after lunch, we drove through Guanica to see some of the earthquake damage for ourselves. Construction crews were working on the local Econo grocery store to identify and repair the earthquake damage. Now structural engineers can begin the damage assessment and begin repairs or arrange for demolition.
Curfew remains from 7 PM to 5 AM until May 25th
Beaches, public parks, and resort/hotel pools remain closed.
Construction and manufacturing, road repairs, AEE & AAA repair works, cement stores and all construction related work resumed on Monday, May 11, 2020.
Week 10 – May 18, 2020
Not much has changed since week 9.
- Curfew remains from 7 PM to 5 AM
- Beaches, public parks, and resort/hotel pools remain closed
- Churches and religious services are prohibited.
- Everything is closed on Sunday, except gas stations and drive thru prescription pick-up at the pharmacy.
Vehicle inspections and registration are now open (as of May 11, but I didn’t know). Expired car registration (marbete) has a grace period through June 2020 without a ticket, but you can now get your registration.
Visit https://portalserviciosdisco.dtop.pr.gov/#/index or download the CESCO Digital app for verifying tickets, paying fines, and getting your car registration form.
All traffic tickets must be paid before the vehicle registration. When downloading my car registration form, the app notified me that I had a parking ticket from January 2020. There was no ticket left on my vehicle, nor any notice that I had received a $50 ticket, except from the app. I was able to pay the parking ticket through the app, without having to go to the CESCO office to pay in person, which was previously the only option.
Once you have a copy of the car registration form, proceed to the Vehicle Inspection facility and pay $11 for the annual inspection & emissions test. With the passed inspection certificate, pay the car registration at the facility and receive your updated marbete sticker for the vehicle.
This process usually takes about 3 hours to get the registration form (now available online), inspection, paperwork, and marbete. Today I was able to get my registration in an hour!
Barber shops, beauty salons, religious services, malls, funerals services, and restaurant dine in are still not allowed and being “evaluated” with guidance for reopening. Restaurants are still only allowed to serve take out and delivery (no dine in permitted at all).
Most small businesses are still not permitted to open, even if they follow the same safety precautions as Walmart and Costco superstores. We are waiting for the next Executive Order from the Governor for guidance and when these businesses can reopen.
Week 11 – May 25, 2020
Are we still under island wide lockdown? Many rules have changed in the last week, so here is a breakdown of the changes.
Curfew from 7 PM to 5 AM extended until June 15, almost everything is still closed on Sunday.
Use of face-mask devices and maintaining social distance is mandatory while performing authorized activities. All establishments are required OSHA self-certification and strict observance of approved safety protocols.
Restaurants may serve up to 25% of their occupancy capacity in accordance with the PR Building Code and may continue to work after curfew begins to make deliveries until midnight.
Pet grooming services, beauty salons and barber shops may operate Monday through Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm by appointment.
Travel agents, auto dealers and retail stores may operate Monday through Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Maximum occupancy 50% of building code. Includes auto parts and repairs and hardware stores.
Laundromats and laundry services Monday through Saturdays 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Shopping centers may begin on May 26th to train and prepare for reopening on June 8th, Monday through Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Movie theaters, valet parking and game rooms will remain closed.
Supermarkets are now authorized to make deliveries until midnight, but closed to shoppers at 7PM for curfew.
Funeral viewings allowed, no more than 10 persons at a time.
Real estate agents may show unoccupied properties. For occupied properties they may use virtual tours.
Beaches may be used for exercising including swimming, surfing, sailing, stand up paddle board (SUP) and yoga. No sunbathing, socializing, chairs, coolers, umbrellas or activities or gatherings at the beach.
Tennis and Golf courses may open by appointment. Gyms remain closed. Further information on sports activities is coming from the Secretary of the PR Sports and Recreation Agency.
Boats may be used for recreational purposes including fishing. No beach stops. Just marina to marina operations.
Religious service gatherings are now permitted using appropriate protection protocols.
More small businesses applying for “certification” to reopen, while many will never reopen and are starting to communicate permanent closures.
Small retail businesses are now allowed to reopen with confusing guidance and contradictory rules.