The governor Peter Pierluisi affirmed this afternoon that Puerto Rico is not affected by the blockade issued on Thursday by the United States Supreme Court about an order by President Joe Biden requiring employees of businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 or to submit negative tests weekly.
The blockade does not imply a final decision, but instead suspends Biden’s executive order in which disputes initiated in judicial forums of lesser jurisdiction are resolved.
Through a conservative majority opinion, the Supreme Court concluded that the United States government exceeded its authority in trying to impose the vaccine or testing rule on American companies with at least 100 employees through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“The decisions ruled yesterday by the Federal Supreme Court do not affect the vaccination mandates in Puerto Rico issued through executive orders. On the contrary, they remain in full force.”, expressed the executive in written statements.
“On the other hand, in Puerto Rico, statutes such as the ‘Puerto Rico Department of Security Act’ and the ‘Organic Law of the Department of Health,’ expressly grant the Government of Puerto Rico the power to issue different measures and orders to address a state emergency and a public health situation such as a pandemic. This includes vaccination mandates for different sectors of the population,” Pierluisi added.
Article 5.10 of the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety Act (20-2017) establishes that during an emergency or disaster situation, the executive of the Government of Puerto Rico “may issue, amend and revoke those regulations and issue, amend and rescind those orders that it deems appropriate to govern during the state of emergency or disaster. The regulations issued or orders issued during a state of emergency or disaster shall have the force of law for the duration of said state of emergency or disaster.”.
In this case, Puerto Rico has been under a state of emergency due to COVID-19 since former Governor Wanda Vázquez signed the declaration in March 2020.
On the other hand, Although the Supreme Court blocked the order that forced large companies to vaccinate their employees, it upheld the mandate that requires all workers in federally funded medical institutions to be immunized against the virus.. Regarding said determination, Pierluisi pointed out that the decision of the highest judicial forum validates the administrative orders that Secretary Carlos Mellado has issued for the public health component.
“The second determination of the Federal Supreme Court validated the authority of the federal Secretary of Health to issue a COVID-19 vaccination mandate to health employees at participating Medicare and Medicaid facilities, subject only to exceptions for medical and religious reasons” , opined the governor.
“The decision of the Federal Supreme Court recognized the scientific information on which the mandate was based, that the vaccine is an adequate means to prevent the contagion and transmission of the virus, the reasonableness of the measure, among other important issues of these mandates” added.