Puerto Rico took COVID-19 seriously and put strict measures in place to help control the spread of the coronavirus. The Island has fewer cases and fewer deaths than many states with similar population size. Does that mean that Puerto Rico can plan to lift restrictions and reopen soon?
The World Health Organizations has listed six characteristics needed to consider reopening:
COVID-19 cases are controlled
This means that there are few new cases, and no more than the healthcare system can handle.
The healthcare system is ready
There must be a sufficient workforce to find, test, and care for current and new cases of COVID-19.
Outbreak risks in high-vulnerability situations are minimized
This means that places where the disease can spread easily have plans in place to maintain social distancing and reduce the spread of infection. This could include churches, restaurants and nightclubs, gyms, theaters, and other crowded places.
Workplaces have preventive measures in place
Workplaces should open only when they are ready to protect their workers. This could involve staggering shifts to reduce crowding, providing workers with PPE like masks and hand sanitizers, and checking workers’ temperatures before they start their shifts. Hand washing and physical distancing should be easy for workers.
Travelers are under control
There should be measures in place to ensure that people from coronavirus hotspots are monitored. Travelers should be tested and quarantined as necessary to reduce the spread of the virus through travel.
Communities are participating
Community members must be informed and engaged when it comes to safety. Use of masks, physical distancing, and careful hygiene are understood and accepted in the community as a whole.
Is Puerto Rico ready?
The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) has examined Puerto Rico on the basis of this criteria. While they report no information on whether workplaces and public gathering places are ready, they judge that Puerto Rico is in a strong position for community understanding and engagement.
For the first criterion, having COVID-19 cases under control, they rate Puerto Rico completely unready. The other two criteria, a prepared healthcare system and control over travelers, show Puerto Rico rated in the middle.
The United States as a whole is judged just medium on community understanding and engagement. However, none of the places rated in this study were considered ready to return to life as usual.