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 produced by Edmy Ayala and Camille Padilla Dalmau.
This story was done in collaboration with 9 Millones.
NPR’s Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa, produced by Futuro Media, is the longest-running Latino-focused program on U.S. public media.
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