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Puerto Rico to lift face mask requisite for those vaccinated

July 1, 2021 GMT
A healthcare worker inoculates 59 year-old Raymon Diaz with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign as part of the “Noche de San Juan” festivities, a traditional all-day celebration to mark the birth of St. John the Baptist, at the Ultimo Trolley public beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. This year COVID-19 vaccines will be available to devotees heading to the beach to celebrate the saint’s June 24th feast day. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
A healthcare worker inoculates 59 year-old Raymon Diaz with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign as part of the “Noche de San Juan” festivities, a traditional all-day celebration to mark the birth of St. John the Baptist, at the Ultimo Trolley public beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. This year COVID-19 vaccines will be available to devotees heading to the beach to celebrate the saint’s June 24th feast day. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Fully vaccinated people in Puerto Rico will no longer be required to wear face masks starting next week with few exceptions, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi announced on Thursday.

He also said that capacity restrictions at all businesses will be lifted as the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations across the U.S. territory keeps dropping.

Both measures go into effect July 5.

“Each day we get closer to normal,” Pierluisi said, acknowledging that it will be difficult to determine who has been vaccinated.

Face masks, however, will still be required of everyone who visits a hospital, doctor’s office or dental clinic, Puerto Rico Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said. He added that face masks also are required for those younger than 12.

“It’s important that we protect those who are vulnerable,” he said.

Some health experts criticized the governor’s announcement, saying the face mask requirement should be upheld given the presence on the island of the delta variant, which scientists believe is about 50% more transmissible than other types.

The U.S. territory of 3.3 million people has reported nearly 123,000 cases and more than 2,500 deaths. Pierluisi said 74% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, while more than 63% are fully vaccinated.