Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Puerto Ricans crowd supermarkets as government ramps us restrictions

Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced

Puerto Ricans flocked to grocery stores this morning after Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced last night announced stricter regulations for the island’s coronavirus lockdown during Holy Week, ordering almost all businesses including supermarkets and banks to close from Friday to Sunday. 

Vázquez Garced said only pharmacies and gas stations will operate over the weekend, and warned people will only be allowed outside if they need to seek medical help or an essential service. She ordered businesses to bar anyone not wearing some sort of face mask from entering until further notice, and said scarves wrapped around the face would be admitted.

“From Monday to Thursday, the order will continue as it is,” said Vázquez Garced during a press briefing last night. “From Friday to Sunday, you can only travel on public roads for emergencies or essential services.”

The government’s latest measure to try to contain the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel virus, gives Puerto Ricans only two days to stock up on food for Easter weekend, as a previous executive order limits the amount of people that can transit the roads according to their license plate number. 

Drivers with licence plates ending in even numbers can transit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while those with uneven numbers can do so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No one is allowed to drive on Sundays.

The curfew imposed on March 15 has closed most businesses except supermarkets, gas stations and banks and forced citizens to stay in their homes unless they need to seek an essential service, with a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The lockdown runs through April 12, and the governor did not say last night if she will extend it. 

The governor today announced she signed into law a bill that punishes people that violate any executive order that imposes a curfew with six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Vazquéz Garced’s executive order already punishes violators with a six-month jail term or a fine for the same amount. So far, according to Vázquez Garced, the police have arrested 275 people for violating the curfew. 

Puerto Rico has reported 513 cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths as of this morning. Earlier today, Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said “our worst moment hasn’t arrived.” The island expects the apex between April 15 and May 8. 

Last night, local newspaper El Nuevo Día yesterday reported the government committed more than $40 million to buy Covid-19 rapid tests from a company with no experience producing medical equipment and led by people with close ties to the ruling party, the New Progressive Party.

The government cancelled the orders, and Vázquez Garced last night denied having any knowledge about the purchase. 

ACLU challenges the lockdown

The American Civil Liberties Union on Saturday filed an injunction to ask the court to declare parts of Puerto Rico’s curfew unconstitutional, arguing the executive order violates the right to intimacy in the home. It is the first coronavirus curfew lawsuit the ACLU files in a U.S. jurisdiction.

The lawsuit, presented in Puerto Rico’s Court of First Instance challenges provisions of the order that punish violators with up to six months in prison and prohibit people who are not part of the “nuclear family” from entering houses. ACLU also argues the executive order favors religious activities on Sunday, while restricting commercial activity that is permitted during the week.

The lawsuit names three Puerto Ricans who leave their homes every day to care for their mothers. They ask that the executive order be amended to clarify whether they are exempted from the curfew and the transit restrictions when travelling to their mothers’ homes.

“It is in times of crisis when the rights enshrined in the Constitution are most protected; a crisis is not nor can it ever be an excuse to violate them or create exceptions not contemplated neither in the Constitution nor in its interpretative jurisprudence,” the lawsuit states.


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

A dictatorship called COVID-19

Alpha Kamara May 28, 2020

During pandemic, Rio de Janeiro residents fear police

Marina Guimaraes May 27, 2020

Recovering from drugs during a pandemic

Kyla Milberger May 26, 2020

  Covid-19 takes away the communal joy at Eid-al-Fitr celebration

Narkwor Kwablaa May 25, 2020

Beloved old school game sees boom in numbers during coronavirus quarantine

Michael Yang May 15, 2020

Coronavirus leaves the fate of some beloved New York events uncertain

Emily Glass May 15, 2020

South Africa’s lockdown exposes inequalities

Kathleen Taylor May 14, 2020

Churchgoers find spiritual growth through virtual services 

Harrison Tsui May 14, 2020

” I’m working with COVID patients tonight”

Margaret Guzman May 14, 2020

Singles connect on Tinder to fight quarantine blues 

Yaroslava Bondar May 14, 2020

Jewish traditions during a pandemic

Sydney Fishman May 13, 2020

The Bible and Coronavirus

Jonathan Sarabia May 13, 2020

Doctor uses social media to give advice and hope

Sope Aluko May 12, 2020

First Sandy, Now COVID: Lower East Side Activists Grapple With Construction for Climate Project

Izzie Ramirez May 12, 2020

Dating during a pandemic

Bessie Liu May 12, 2020

The last reponders

Shiyu Xu May 11, 2020

When the pandemic hits a shelter for abused boys 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 11, 2020

Portugal contains the coronavirus despite Spain’s woes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 11, 2020

Warm weather brings crowds to Prospect Park

Bessie Liu May 11, 2020

New York coronavirus numbers continue to fall

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Living through the pandemic while a loved one is behind bars

Amanda Perez Pintado May 10, 2020

Pandemic ends all high school senior year traditions

Jonathan Sarabia May 10, 2020

Coronavirus might have caused the death of many children who were misdiagnosed 

Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Farmers destroy staggering amounts of food even as food lines grow

Karen Camela Watson May 9, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic threatens border towns in Mexico

Sydney Fishman and Ximena Del Cerro May 9, 2020

Pence’s press secretary tests positive for Covid-19

Shiyu Xu May 8, 2020

During pandemic NYC tenants in limbo

John DiLillo May 8, 2020

Llamas could be coronavirus heroes

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 8, 2020

Lawmakers, Legal Experts Clash Over Much Needed Business Interruption Insurance Coverage for Small Businesses

James Duffy May 8, 2020

Rent relief in NY, JetBlue’s flyover and Trump’s valet tests positive for coronavirus in today’s news

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

Coronavirus tears through the Navajo Nation 

Amanda Perez Pintado May 7, 2020

In Singapore, spaces close, but restaurants open

Yifan Yu May 6, 2020

Press secretary calls Fauci testifying before congress “publicity stunt”

Kathleen Taylor May 6, 2020

Harry Potter and the Magical Malady of the Movies

Ahad Sanwari May 6, 2020

Trump speaks to human loss, Cuomo lashes out at President’s comments

Catarina Lamelas Moura May 5, 2020

PPE in the city

Narkwor Kwabla May 5, 2020

Boring Politics is Good Politics – Especially in a Pandemic

Serafina Smith May 5, 2020

Stuck: Life under quarantine in Rio de Janeiro

Marina Guimaraes May 5, 2020

New York’s Emptiness

Maria Abreu May 5, 2020

In an Airbnb Room During Lockdown in Jamaica, Queens

Dayo Paul May 4, 2020

What Temporary Means: Portraits of family at home

Guillermo Manning May 4, 2020

Stockholm Stays Open

Tatiana Kireeva May 4, 2020

NYC now producing its own coronavirus test kits

Maureen Mullarkey May 3, 2020

Miss you, mom: Spending Ramadan together through a screen

Maznah Shehzad May 3, 2020

Life in front of a screen

Patricio Zenklussen May 3, 2020

Coronavirus and the Shincheonji

Bessie Liu May 3, 2020

It’s The Little Things

Sope Aluko May 3, 2020

Days In, Days Out: A doctor’s life during Covid-19

Elsa Benamouzig May 2, 2020

Contactless: Food Delivery amid COVID-19

Keighton Li May 2, 2020

Hasidic South Williamsburg Resists the New Reality

Leo Schwartz May 2, 2020