SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor announced Thursday that vaccinations will be required of government contractors, hotel guests and employees and all health facility workers to control a spike in COVID-19 cases blamed largely on the Delta variant.
The order goes into effect Aug. 16; those who refuse to get inoculated will be required to submit a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Violators will face up to a $5,000 fine or six months in jail, with few exceptions allowed.
“We cannot lower our guard,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. “There are vaccines for everyone. Vaccinations are the solution.”
The announcement comes as Puerto Rico reports an 11% transmission rate this month, compared with a 1.4% rate reported in late June.
Pierluisi said the requirement applies to all those working in health facilities including laboratories and elderly care centers as well as those in short-term rentals including Airbnbs. He said government contractors who meet with officials in person will be required to show vaccination proof.
The governor previously announced that vaccinations will be required of all government employees working in their office.
Carlos Mellado, Puerto Rico’s health secretary, said the majority of cases are being driven by the Delta variant. He noted that 20% of current hospitalizations are people who have already received two vaccine doses and added that the government will not issue health certificates unless proof of vaccination is submitted.
The U.S. territory of 3.3 million people has reported more than 128,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,500 deaths. Some 76% of people have received at least one dose.