If you're planning a beach escape to gorgeous Puerto Rico, don't forget your face mask. Being caught without it on your face could cost you $100.
Last month, police in Puerto Rico stepped up patrols in tourist zones and enforcement of the island's face mask rules. "Ever since we started this plan, we have made several arrests and have intervened with a lot of disorderly conduct," Orlando Rivera Lebrón, San Juan's police chief, told USA TODAY.
The new approach came after weeks of tension between local residents and visitors, as tourism has begun to bounce back with COVID-19 vaccinations on the rise across the U.S.
One San Juan bartender told USA TODAY that he frequently encounters tourists exploring Old San Juan and refusing to wear face masks as local rules require. He told the outlet, "I would sometimes go to work thinking, 'Is this the day I'm going to have some aggressive interaction with someone?'"
Efforts to nudge tourists — most of whom come from the mainland U.S. — into complying don't always work. Multiple videos have captured visitors turning aggressive when asked to put on their face masks. One showed tourists throwing a drink in the face of a woman in a wheelchair who had asked them to wear their masks and keep their distance.
Puerto Rico currently requires wearing face masks at all times, including outdoors. The island also has imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
Puerto Rico has reported more than 107,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,118 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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