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When COVID-19 cases started to be reported in Puerto Rico, a grim statistic emerged: 15,000 to 60,000 people could die if nothing was done to control the pandemic. In an island that is still recovering from hurricanes and earthquakes, there was concern that the spread of COVID-19 would quickly overwhelm a fragile health system.

While the local government was one of the first to establish a lockdown in the U.S., the Secretary of Health at the time said that only 150 tests a day could be processed within the island. That’s when a group of committed Puerto Rican scientists decided to step in.

In this episode of Latino USA, journalists Edmy Ayala and Camille Padilla Dalmau bring us the story of how several science-based organizations, experts, and private labs joined forces to ramp up testing. They got creative, and thanks to their efforts Puerto Rico went from the bottom of the list to administering more than 100,000 molecular tests for the virus.

Now, as the government begins the process of reopening, the debate goes on about the best approach, and Puerto Rican scientists continue to hack their way to a sensible COVID-19 response that protects the island’s vulnerable health care system.

This story was done in collaboration with 9 Millones. 

Featured image via the Centers for Disease and Control. 

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8 thoughts on “How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response

  1. The Governor of Puerto Rico did a tremendous job,thanks to her that we had a early lock down.there are only 142 deaths and almost 5,500 with the virus.

  2. The Governor of Puerto Rico is a joke. She is just as corrupt, as most of the other governors we have had. This story is fake. In Puerto Rico we do no know how many people are actually sick. Puerto Rico is one of 14 states/territories with the highest numbers of positive tests over the past week. Some of this is due to mothers day celebration, the reopening of beaches, restaurants, the opening of physicians offices, availability of tests and the fact that a lot of the people are not practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces like rivers and beaches. For the past 3 months we have gone from the government buying fake tests, a cover up by them to not admit that the governor and head of senate both had knowledge In the transaction and adding the positives and negatives. Puerto Rico also does not have knowledge in how many people have recuperated. The department of health and the government have added all the serological and molecular tests together and as of today have reported 5,342 infected people; all they did was separate the numbers by serological tests and molecular tests. Since the serological test numbers cannot be trusted we still don’t know how many real confirmed cases we have. In order to do that the people that are “suspected” and tested with the serological test have to be tested with the molecular tests.

  3. As of June 11, 7:41a EDT Politico reports Puerto Rico as having administered only 11,237 tests. This is approximately an order of magnitude less than reported here. Politico references the Puerto Rico Department of Health as a source. Your story only says “according to Dr. Colon Ramos”, but I can find nowhere that verifies this or quotes him directly. I hope that that your reporting is true, but I suspect it is not as I have lived and worked as a scientist in PR for 15 years. Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter and for upholding the high standards set by your parent organization, NPR.

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