RICO’S COVID-19 DIGEST – My first thought while listening to the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, on Wednesday announced 86 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, the highest recorded in a 24-hour period since the first case on March 6, was here comes a total lockdown of the country.
With the 86 on Wednesday, 55 on Sunday, 52 on Wednesday before that and no day in between below 20, mostly in the 30s, for a total of 405 in the first 10 days of the month, the mind of Salas and others in the decision-making loop have to be thinking we have to put a stop to this.
A reversal of the opening of the past few weeks, stricter controls at the borders, such as not even allowing Ticos and residents to leave and enter – I mean a complete lockdown, restaurants and businesses shuttered again, a stay at home order in addition to tougher vehicular restrictions and so on.
I imagined the worst is to come, I could picture President Carlos Alvarado taking center stage on Friday, announcing tough measures beginning almost immediately.
But then I calmed down, I started reasoning and looking at the numbers. Telenoticias this Thursday morning was kind enough to have done the graphics for me, a coincidence, explaining what my research found the night before: the increase in the number of infections is contained in several areas, rural areas in the north, a pocket in Limon and for some reason, Paquera.
The big problem is in San Carlos, the canton that had more new cases of the COVID-19 in a single day that those combined in the big four, registering 96 new cases of COVID-19 in the same number of days, 50% more cases than the four GAM biggies together.
Following are the cantons bordering Nicaragua, such as Upala with 23 cases and Pococí (Limon) with 39, together with San Ramón with 29 cases and Paquera (Puntarenas) with 21.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the cantons of San José and Alajuela had the highest number of coronavirus cases, but in the first ten days of June, the cantons of San José, Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia added 61 of the 405 cases across the country: Heredia and San Jose with 20 each, Alajuela 19 and Cartago only 2.
Only on Wednesday, June 10, the canton of San Carlos registered 32 new cases of COVID-19, San Ramón 11, while Heredia eight, San José five, Alajuela three and Cartago one.
Half of the cases (44) of the day are in the two cantons of the Northern Zone.
This Wednesday it registered the record number of infections with 86 cases, well above the previous maximum figure of 55 cases on June 7 and 52 on June 3.
Another concern expressed by many Costa Ricans, in my face, and social media, are “those Nicaraguans”. But hold on a minute, before throwing sticks and stones, let’s look at the numbers.
The number of registered cases in foreigners in the first ten days of June continues to increase, but by how many?
Look at the chart above. With the exception of the three “big number” days, cases of foreigners were under ten each day.
When we look at the totals, up to June 10, 1,112 of the 1,461 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were Costa Rican and 349 were foreigners. If we accept that the biggest group of foreigners in Costa Rica (legal and illegal) are Nicaraguan, that resulting number is still way below the number of Costa Ricans infected.
This takes me to another very important point, the statement made by the mayor of San Carlos, who is calling for a total lockdown of his canton.
Though he did concede that the problem mainly is of Ticos who cannot accept that Nicaraguans, legal or illegal, are part of the economy of this country, he does blame cultural differences to be the reason why his canton, San Carlos, has such a high number of infections.
“The Costa Rican culture and the Nicaraguan culture are not compatible, they are very different cultures. We do not want to understand it because we have the arrogance of not accepting that Nicaraguans are part of us and that they are part of the economy of this country, not only in the north, throughout the country. Nicaraguans are part of the country’s economic process; And as part of us, we have to see how we integrate the two cultures,” he said.
Ok, I can live with that. But, he also said: “If I say to you (a Tico) “quarantine”, you (the Tico) goes and locks yourself in a room, ask for a spoon, ask for a plate (of food) and respect the fact of not going out. The Nicaraguan no, they share the room, they share the spoon … and that causes contagions“.
Hold a minute. I can’t agree with that. If he is referring to Nicaraguan campesinos in the northern zone, who for the most part are poor, live day-to-day, need to move around to where the jobs are, are forced to share living space, even “a spoon”, there are sure to be a certain number fitting that.
But, that is not all Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. I would say that all the different nationalities that make up the Costa Rican culture are to blame equally for any new infection. Let’s not place the blame where it is convenient.
Back on topic. After taking into account all of the above, Costa Rica is still on track, the number of cases are low compared to our neighbors and many other countries in the world, the spread, save for the bubbles, is pretty well contained.
The move to re-open the economy has to continue on the path laid out several weeks ago, the main being the return of tourists. Tourism is the engine of Costa Rica’s economy.