Although I have very been concerned about Coronavirus in the U.S., Europe and Asia, until yesterday, I hadn’t given much thought to its impact on Puerto Rico. That was until I read the announcement from the office of Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, confirming that three people (all older, with compromised immune systems) have been diagnosed with the virus. “Tonight we received the news from the CDC of the case that a man of 71 years hospitalized in San Juan that presented symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty breathing tested positive for COVID-19. Equally, a resident from Italy of 68 years … resulted positive for COVID-19 as well. Her husband, of 70 years … also resulted positive.” On the plus side, five others suspected of having the virus tested negative. If you had been considering your spring, summer, fall and winter vacation plans, here’s all the latest information you need to know about Puerto Rico and Coronavirus.
Puerto Rico and Coronavirus: What We Know
With the three confirmed cases of Coronavirus on the island, residents and potential vacationers alike have obvious concerns about their safety. This is what we know so far. On Thursday, March 12th, Governor Vázquez Garced declared a state of emergency and she activated the National Guard. It sounds scary and yet it isn’t as scary as it sounds. On Wednesday, March 11th, United States Congress approved $8.3 billion toward Coronavirus. Puerto Rico has access to some of that money, should we need it. A state of emergency allows state and territory governors to respond in real time, versus being bogged down by any bureaucratic red tape.
Activating the National Guard allows governors to respond in real time to residents’ needs. This can mean distribution of food, water and medical supplies to anyone who needs it, providing support to pedestrians and motorists, maintaining order, minimizing chaos caused by fear and assisting in cleanup. I can tell you they were a very welcome presence in the days, weeks and months following Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico and Coronavirus: Taking Measures to Keep the Island Safe
Along with declaring a state of emergency, Governor Vázquez Garced also canceled all public events through the end of March and her office is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities to ensure we have up-to-the-minute information about everything from confirmed cases, measures to prevent spread of the potentially deadly virus, screening, testing and treatment. Hospitals have established safety protocols for faster admissions of suspected cases, prioritizing them over non-emergent cases.
Are Tourists in Puerto Rico Safe from Coronavirus?
Globally 136,000 people are confirmed to have Coronavirus. 5,000 people have died from the virus worldwide. China reports 60,824 cases with 3,189 deaths. The Asian country with the next highest numbers is South Korea: 7,979 cases and 66 deaths. Japan reports 726 cases and 21 deaths. Europe has been pretty hard hit by the virus, with Northern and Western Europe seeing the lion’s share. Greece, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, The United Kingdom (for the purposes of simplicity, I’m including the UK with Europe) and Portugal combined have close to 9,000 cases and 11 deaths.
But the real stories are in Spain and Italy. My cousin was in Spain the last few weeks and was forced to cut her trip short and return home (to Portland, Oregon) because 1500 new cases have been confirmed in Spain over the last 24 hours. As of March 12th, Coronavirus has claimed the lives of 1000 people in Italy, Europe’s most impacted country, with 15,113 Italians diagnosed with the virus.
Numbers are very low in Africa:
- Cameroon: 2
- Ethiopia: 1
- Ghana: 1
- Ivory Coast: 1
- Kenya: 1
- Namibia: 1
- Nigeria: 2
- Rwanda: 1
- South Africa: 24
- Sudan: 1
Nobody in Africa has died from Coronavirus.
According to the CDC, these are the following statistics in the U.S.:
- Total cases: 1,629
- Total deaths: 41
- Jurisdictions reporting cases: 47 (46 states and District of Columbia)
Cases of COVID-19 Reported in the US, by Source of Exposure (as of March 12, 2020)
The Caribbean and Coronavirus
We already know about Puerto Rico’s three cases (no deaths). In Jamaica, there have been six cases. Trinidad and Tobago has one case and Cuba has four cases. There have been no deaths from the virus in all of the Caribbean.
U.S. President Donald Trump and other political leaders claim Coronavirus will die out when summer hits in North America. Is this true? There is definitely reason to believe this. Viruses, like the flu for example, tend to impact people more in winter, when air is thinner and dryer. This may also possibly explain why countries in Northern Asia and Europe boast much higher numbers than Africa, South America (north of the equator) and the Caribbean, which have pronounced rainy and dry seasons. Despite the fact that I feel like I will freeze to death when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, those temps are more like spring for most in North America, Asia and Europe.
Normally countries in the Caribbean tend to be dry December thru the end of April, however, it is anything but dry right now. According to the National Weather Service, March is typically the driest month in Puerto Rico, with an average of 3.1 inches of precipitation for the entire month. However, in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean, we’re experiencing one of the rainiest “winters” on record. In Utuado, where I live, we’ve had 6.51 inches of rain in the last seven days alone. The U.S. Geological Survey (which keeps real time records of rainfall, in addition to earthquake data), reported that Puerto Rico is in the 90th percentile for rain this month. The humidity, combined with the heat, may account for the low numbers of Puerto Rico and Coronavirus.
Purple Coquí Tours’ Pledge to You
While it’s understandable you are concerned about traveling, once the travel restrictions have been lifted, Puerto Rico awaits you. When it is safe to travel again, as the owner of Purple Coquí Tours, I make a pledge to you.
We have three packages to choose from.
You’ve done a considerable amount of experiential travel. Before you call us, you know exactly what you want to do, you just need someone on the inside to point you in the right direction with locations, schedule and contact information. You take comfort in knowing we’re just a phone call away, but don’t plan on calling until you’re ready to get back on the plane to tell us what an amazing experience you had.
|Budding Experiential Traveler
You’re no longer satisfied with group tours and playing it safe, but you’re still not 100% certain how this experiential travel thing works. You rely on us to make suggestions, book excursions and Airbnbs, but once on the island, you’re comfortable getting from one destination to another. As with package A, you take comfort in knowing we’re just a phone call away, and you may or may not feel the need to contact us during your time on the island.
No matter how enticing experiential travel sounds, some people just aren’t comfortable taking the plunge on their own. If this describes you, the concierge service is perfect for you.
We’ll help you plan an itinerary and manage everything:
We’ll pick you up from the airport and take you to your Airbnb. We’ll have booked an Airbnb next door or nearby (we believe strongly in your privacy and boundaries, as well as ours). We’ll be available for quick trips to the grocery store, to drive you to the other side of the island and everything in between.
We’ll work very closely with to plan things according to your comfort level, down to the last detail. And if at any point during your vacation you decide you’re an old hat with experiential travel, and you’re ready “to fly solo,” we can also hang back and let you do your thing.