Officials in Puerto Rico, already ‘indignant’ over what they feel are misbehaving tourists violating COVID-19 protocols and mandates, are now hitting back where it counts most.
The Puerto Rican government has imposed a $100 fine for anybody not wearing a facemask in tourist areas, including outdoor public areas and indoor establishments that demand the face coverings.
According to a story in USA Today, Puerto Rico has implemented several executive orders aimed at diminishing the spread of the coronavirus, including some that restrict visits to the beach. Beaches are open for recreational use.
The $100 fine might seem excessive, but the situation in Puerto Rico has gotten out of control. USA Today noted that in February, tourists reportedly assaulted a woman in a wheelchair after they were told to wear masks. Two female tourists threw their drinks at the woman’s face and told her to speak English.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said this week he would station more than 3,500 officers stationed in tourist areas in addition 1,100 National Guard members stationed on the island. There is a curfew in place from midnight to 5 a.m.
But the combination of low airfares, pent-up demand and poor weather in the U.S. has driven so many tourists to Puerto Rico that hotels are nearly at capacity.
NBC News chronicled the issues more than two weeks ago and little has improved.
Israel Meléndez Ayala, 34, a longtime resident of Old San Juan, saw many tourists without masks when he and his partner went out to walk their dog.
“They were behaving as if no one else existed in Old San Juan,” Meléndez Ayala told NBC News. “I don’t have a problem with people trying to have a good time, but they have to be respectful. We’re still living in the middle of a pandemic, and people can’t come here and act as if the virus doesn’t exist. … They have a sense of entitlement and apathy I don’t understand.”