Puerto Rico Delays School Start by Two Weeks on Omicron Surge

Puerto Rico Delays School Start by Two Weeks on Omicron Surge

Facing a surge in Covid-19 cases, Puerto Rico is delaying the start of the commonwealth’s public schools by two weeks.

In a press conference Wednesday, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said public schools won’t fully open until Jan. 24, not Jan. 10 as planned. He said the delay was out of “an abundance of prudence.”

It will also give students ages five and older time to get their second shot by the end of January, a requirement for public-school students on the Caribbean island to attend class. The commonwealth’s move comes as other mainland districts like some in Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey have moved to remote instruction. 

While the delay doesn’t apply to private schools or universities, Pierluisi asked those institutions to consider delaying their start dates as well. 

Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates of any U.S. jurisdiction, Puerto Rico has also seen one of the largest spikes in new cases, underscoring the challenge of omicron and the importance of booster shots. Puerto Rico currently has the second-highest per-capita rate of new Covid cases after New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Wednesday, 90% of the eligible population had at least one vaccine and 81% had two vaccines, but less than a third had received a booster.

Without the vaccinations, there would be 10 times more people hospitalized and eight times more deaths on the island, Pierluisi said. 

“Even though vaccines don’t protect us 100%, without them we would be lost,” he said. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Virgin Islands also pushed back the start of in-person learning by two weeks to Jan. 24. 

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