Puerto Rico, success story
The Economist highlights Puerto Rico’s success at handling the pandemic, despite the many challenges the US territory has been facing for years prior to when the coronavirus first appeared.
“Hurricane Maria killed about 3,000 people and left parts of Puerto Rico without electricity for 11 months after it made landfall in September 2017. For the past four years its inhabitants have endured frequent electricity blackouts. Then earthquakes then hit the island in late 2019-early 2020. So when the first covid case was documented two months later, Puerto Rico was still reeling from previous disasters. The hospital system was in disarray: about 15% of medical personnel fled for the mainland after Hurricane Maria, and the earthquakes forced many clinics to close. Some Puerto Ricans were living in tent shelters, where infectious diseases could spread easily. Many feared that covid would devastate the weakened island.
In fact Puerto Rico, an American territory of 3.3m people about 1,000 miles (1,600km) south-east of Florida, has fared much better than most of America. The island experienced lower infection rates per person than all American states (5,843 cases per 100,000 since January 21, 2020). Of course, low case rates could be the result of infrequent testing. The positivity rate (the percentage of covid tests that are positive) is used as an indicator of how widespread infection is and whether enough testing is being done. As of November 15th, Puerto Rico’s positivity rate was 5-7.9% for the entire pandemic, just slightly above the share at which the World Health Organisation thinks the virus is under control.”
The positive results of Puerto Rico’s COVID-19 efforts represent both a vindication of its strict measures, and a rare moment of positive adulation for the territory.