2020 coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico
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The 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico is an ongoing viral pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first cases of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico during the 2019–20 worldwide pandemic were reported on March 13: 2 Italian tourists and a 71-year-old cancer patient. The first death recorded was the 68-year-old Italian woman, and a few days later her husband was reported to have recovered from the virus. Testing is being conducted by veteran's hospitals, private labs, and the Puerto Rico Department of Health.
|2020 coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||San Juan|
|Arrival date||March 13, 2020|
(3 weeks and 5 days)
|Confirmed cases||620 (as of April 8, 2020)|
|Recovered||6 (as of April 6, 2020)|
|24 (as of April 8, 2020)|
|Puerto Rico Department of Health|
Puerto Rico's population is at a heightened risk of COVID-19 due to its higher proportion of elderly people compared to the US as a whole. In 2017, 21% in Puerto Rico versus 16% in the US are over the age of 65. Additionally, elderly residents of Puerto Rico are seven times more likely to live in poverty than in the US. Puerto Rico has one fifth as many intensive care unit beds per capita than in the US. Additionally, Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Maria and the 2019–2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes. The Puerto Rican population has strong ties to the New York City area. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo had been spearheading support to Puerto Ricans in NY and PR after the Hurricane Maria and the 2019-20 earthquakes.
Late January: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport becomes one of twenty US airports where travelers undergo additional screening. The screenings focus on passengers from Wuhan and require a form stating their travel, contacts in Wuhan, and any possible symptoms. Travelers will have their temperatures taken.
March 4: A Panamanian doctor and four companions arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico after traveling to New York, Miami, and Panama. They attend the National Day of Salsa festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 7 despite having a fever and feeling ill. On March 12, Vázquez requests all people who were in the VIP section to self isolate if they had flu-like symptoms.
March 8: A 68-year-old, Italian woman on the cruise ship Costa Luminosa sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida is put in self-isolation in a Puerto Rico hospital after showing symptoms of pneumonia. A test is sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vázquez orders that all cruises arriving in Puerto Rico certify that no passengers meet the criteria for COVID-19.
March 12: As a preventive measure, Vázquez declares a state of emergency and activates the Puerto Rico National Guard. Puerto Rico has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Government of Puerto Rico bars tourists from travelling to Vieques and Culebra, island municipalities popular with tourists. Only residents and those delivering supplies are allowed to travel to the islands.
Mid-march: Several universities including University of Puerto Rico, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Ana G. Méndez University, Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, and National University College cancel in-person classes and move to remote instruction.
March 13: Puerto Rico has 17 suspected cases of COVID-19 and has sent tests to the CDC on March 9. Vázquez criticizes the CDC on March 13 for not having results in over four days. However, later in the evening of March 13, Vázquez announces, at a press conference, that three cases have been confirmed: the 68-year-old Italian woman from the cruise ship Costa Luminosa and her 70-year-old husband (both tourists) are hospitalized in isolation at the Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital in Condado, as well as a 71-year-old Puerto Rican cancer patient in treatment at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital whose relatives had traveled off the island. During the evening of March 13, Vázquez closes all public schools for 14 days and bars Dominican Republic cruise ships and ferries from docking at Puerto Rico ports.
March 13: The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico approves House Bill 2428 to amend Puerto Rico Law 180–1998 to establish unpaid emergency leave of up to 20 days for employees with a suspected or actual diagnosis of a pandemic illness. The bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate of Puerto Rico. Plans to take people's temperature as they enter Puerto Rico at 7 different points of entry are pending the receipt of 50 no-touch infrared thermometers.
March 15: Vázquez declares a curfew ordering people to remain in their home thru March 30. People are only allowed out for emergencies. There are limited circumstances that people can come out to purchase essential items or obtain essential services from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm. She also orders all businesses, with the exception of grocers, supermarkets, gas stations, banking institutions, pharmacies, and medical companies to close. She also confirms a fourth case of COVID-19, an 87-year-old military veteran and California resident who was transferred to the Mayagüez Medical Center by United States Coast Guard helicopter after presenting symptoms on a cruise passing through the Mona Passage.
March 15: Puerto Rico Police commissioner Henry Escalera Rivera postpones all personnel training. Current cadets at the Police Academy will report to locations close to their residences to conduct administrative tasks at the barracks. Until further notice, several documents and certifications will not be issued: background and criminal checks and copies of police reports. The Criminal Record Office will not be offering in-person services and will instead send records through email, free of charge.
March 15: A 65-year-old woman at an undisclosed location becomes the fifth confirmed case. Puerto Rico has 17 other suspected cases.
March 16: Vázquez discusses the possibility of declaring martial law should the population not heed the curfew and rules imposed with the state of emergency. The governor had mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses for two weeks yet some companies had gone about with business as usual, opening their doors, prompting Vázquez to say "we can be much stricter." Business owners are subject to a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail if they don't abide by the curfew. On March 16, police fine a bar in Orocovis and carry out over two dozen enforcement actions. Puerto Rican Police report making 36 arrests and fiing 85 charges for violations during the three days since the curfew was enacted.
March 17: Vázquez sends a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration with three independent requests. In a statement, she explained the letter seeks authorization to close airports without passenger screenings, limit airstrips for charter planes, and allow the island to limit air traffic to the military and vital services. Police saw an increase in domestic violence incidents being reported.
March 18: The sixth confirmed case is announced by a Veterans Hospital spokesperson. State epidemiologist Carmen Deseda reports there were 26 possible cases at the Veterans Hospital, 10 of which tested negative.
March 21: The first death due to COVID-19 is recorded- the 68-year-old Italian woman who had been on the Costa Luminosa cruise ship from Florida, and who had underlying health issues. Also, on March 21, in response to fake news that begins circulating from WhatsApp, people run to the streets, en masse, for mass shopping and hoarding. The fake news stated that the island's grocery stores would close shortly. The March 15 two-week curfew by Vázquez was defied by many due to the fear caused by the fake news, prompting an investigation by the FBI into who initiated the panicking news. In other news, the 2020 Puerto Rico Democratic primary, originally scheduled for March 29, has been postponed until April 26.
March 25: The island announces death of a resident due to COVID-19. A 48-year-old female teacher from Rincon dies and because she was the wife of a police officer, all 30 officers on the force are quarantined at home. The curfew is extended to April 12. There are 60 confirmed cases and two deaths.
March 30: The sixth death is recorded.
March 31: The seventh and eighth are deaths recorded. Confirmed cases rise to 239.
April 2: Police are enforcing the curfew by arresting drivers and towing cars. By this date, 507 people have been arrested for breaking the island-wide curfew.
March 12: At a press conference, Governor Vázquez declares a state of emergency and activates the National Guard. She states that National Guard personnel will be stationed at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and the Port of San Juan to screen arriving passengers for symptoms. The declaration also orders all mass gatherings and events in March to be postponed or canceled. Vázquez expresses frustration at the CDC delays in testing.
March 11: The United States Department of Health and Human Services allocates nearly $5.9 million to Puerto Rico to combat COVID-19.
March 13: The Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico, Rafael Rodríguez resigns. Congressperson Jenniffer González questions why Vázquez removed the Secretary during a time of crisis, stating that it could signal to federal legislators that the Puerto Rico Department of Health was incompetent and unprepared for the crisis.
Puerto Rico public schools are closed for 14 days. The House of Representative of Puerto Rico approves a bill to establish new unpaid emergency leave. It is awaiting consideration by the Senate of Puerto Rico.
March 14: Congressperson González successfully requests the CDC to include Puerto Rico and other Territories of the United States in their digital alert system. González states she will remain in Washington, D.C., despite having previously scheduled meetings in Puerto Rico, so she could work with the United States Congress.
March 15: Vázquez issues an island-wide curfew through March 30 and closes all businesses not involved in food sales, medicine, or banking. and the police commissioner postponed personnel training.
José Aponte Hernández, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico says he would request from Jenniffer González Colón, (the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico) for funds to get an old hospital up and running. They discuss the possibility of using an old hospital located on the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station located in Ceiba (a small eastern municipality), to treat persons affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico.
March 19: Journalists from the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) in Puerto Rico state that Carmen Deseda, who had become more visible in the press since the resignation of Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, does not have the credentials to be a state epidemiologist. In response, the governor of Puerto Rico stated it is a team approach and that she supports Carmen Deseda in her role. On the same day, a group of Puerto Rican scientists sign and circulate a document asking for Deseda's resignation saying she had shown a lack of competence in the past and was not up to the task of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 25: Acting minister of the Puerto Rico Department of Health places Encijar Hassan Ríos, an epidemiologist, in charge of leading the island's COVID-19 task force.
March 27: Vázquez tightens restrictions around the curfew. Motorists are only allowed out (for emergency shopping) based on the ending digit of their car license plate: license plates ending in 0,2,4,6,8 are allowed out for emergency errands on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, and license plates ending in odd numbers are allowed out for emergencies errands on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. No one is allowed out on Sundays. People who defy the new rules will be met with a fine of $5000 or arrest.
April 3: Non-essential businesses that open for business are defying the stay-at-home curfew, and are losing their business license.
April 6: Reports indicate that 10 doctors have tested positive for the coronavirus.
|2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cases in Puerto Rico|
|Regions by the PR Dept. of Health||Municipalities||Confirmed Cases|
|Arecibo||Arecibo, Barceloneta, Camuy, Ciales, Florida, Hatillo, Lares, Manatí, Morovis, Quebradillas, Utuado, Vega Baja||12|
|Bayamón||Barranquitas, Bayamón, Cataño, Comerío, Corozal, Dorado, Naranjito, Orocovis, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Vega Alta||54|
|Caguas||Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Caguas, Cayey, Cidra, Gurabo, Humacao, Juncos, Las Piedras, Maunabo, Naguabo, San Lorenzo, Yabucoa||31|
|Fajardo||Ceiba, Culebra, Fajardo, Luquillo, Río Grande, Vieques||8|
|Mayagüez||Aguada, Aguadilla, Añasco, Cabo Rojo, Hormigueros, Isabela, Lajas, Las Marías, Maricao, Mayagüez, Moca, Rincón, Sabana Grande, San Germán, San Sebastián||38|
|Metropolitan ("Metro")||Canóvanas, Carolina, Guaynabo, Loíza, San Juan, Trujillo Alto||101|
|Ponce||Adjuntas, Arroyo, Coamo, Guánica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Patillas, Peñuelas, Ponce, Salinas, Santa Isabel, Villalba, Yauco||15|
- 2020 in Puerto Rico
- 2020 in the Caribbean
- Influx of disease in the Caribbean
- HIV/AIDS in Latin America
- 2013–2014 chikungunya outbreak
- 2009 swine flu pandemic
- 2019–2020 dengue fever epidemic
- Hurricane Maria
- 2019–20 Puerto Rico earthquakes
- 2020 coronavirus pandemic in North America
- 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United States
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