Puerto Rico’s government reports 378 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far. Among them, 15 people have died. The island’s already-frail healthcare system—which includes a shortage of doctors and nurses amid continued out-migration is a major problem—simply cannot withstand a large-scale pandemic. The smaller island of Vieques is still without a functioning hospital, adding to the need for all hands on deck.
Yet the island’s main airport remains open, albeit in decreased volume, with nearly 200 flights arriving daily from the U.S. and the Caribbean.
The National Guard is stationed at Luis Muñoz Marín, but the screening process for passengers landing in San Juan is minimal. Visitors are questioned about their health, have their temperatures taken and anyone who hits 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is then sent for an evaluation via the Department of Health. Still, all this does little to stop the spread of COVID-19 if a person is asymptomatic.
At least 20% of Puerto Rican residents are 65 years of age and older, and this group, as we know, is most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications or death. Economically, much of the population is struggling—with a reported poverty rate of 43.1%, although a current count, considering long standing high unemployment, could be significantly greater.
Governor Wanda Vázquez has called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to stop all incoming flights to Puerto Rico for 14 days. The FAA is reviewing the request but stated, as published by the Miami Herald, that “in general, FAA policy does not permit the closure or restriction of airports that receive federal funds. Any request to restrict or close an airport must be approved by the FAA.”
Many Puerto Ricans don’t approve of Vázquez and her administration—as you may recall, she’s the unelected governor who succeeded Rosselló after his resignation last August. The pros and cons of her pandemic response aren’t what’s up for debate here, though. It doesn’t matter that Puerto Rican residents are currently subject to one of the strictest lockdowns as compared to people anywhere else: If more people carrying the virus arrive on the island, it will continue to spread.
To avoid being part of a potential surge in cases, anyone considering traveling to Puerto Rico right now should rethink their plans.
Rather than physically going to Puerto Rico (this goes diasporicans who want to see family, as well) consider a virtual visit instead. There is a multitude of ways to experience Puerto Rico’s culture, music, sights and even food—all without risking your life or the lives of others.
Learn more about Afro-Puerto Rican culture through bomba—a dance native to the town of Loíza. Sheila Osorio of the Academia de Bomba Talleres N’zambi and Tambores Calientes president and musician Marcos Peñazola Cruz will be live on Discover Puerto Rico’s Instagram on Friday night from 6-6:30 p.m. EST.
Bomba lessons courtesy of Lío Villahermosa Santana are an excellent way to partake in Puerto Rican culture, as well. Plus, you can enjoy the benefits of the fact that nobody’s watching (with the exception of those who you’re quarantined with maybe), as you will inevitably make some mistakes while learning. (Seriously, isn’t this what keeps us out of most in-person dance classes anyway?) His sessions are held on Facebook every Wednesday at 1 p.m. EST.
Puerto Rico’s museums are adapting to the times in their own ways. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is hosting creative challenges based on artworks in its collection. Homeschooling of their own variety is the approach the Museo de Arte y Diseño de Miramar is taking. Be sure to check their Facebook for more, but don’t miss the history lesson on the art of losas criollas (Puerto Rican tiles) along with instructions for a DIY tile project. Santurce’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, known as el MAC, is shifting much of its programming to digital—it includes everything from a weekly music series to sporadic workshops with artists and educators.
Music: DJs & Independent Radio
Party with local DJ Toca Lale, an established favorite of Puerto Rico’s LGBTQIA+ community. Lale recently hosted a massive Zoom party, #PAPELON2020, and is dropping Spotify playlists on the daily daily.
Radio-Red’s airwaves remain open, thankfully. Check Facebook or the independent station’s website to listen to live programming—which ranges from punk to reggaetón to hip-hop to house and more—or hear mixtapes from local and international artists.
In terms of listeners, DJ Yamil— the official DJ of Justin Quiles—is likely Puerto Rico’s current top act. His March 20 virtual debut hit at least 60K viewers on Facebook. His following continues to grow, and he’s live on a regular basis, including tonight.