How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response In late February, the government of Puerto Rico was in denial over COVID-19. Top health officials were saying that the coronavirus would not reach the island—but the pandemic did arrive in early March. With hospitals that are still recovering from hurricanes and earthquakes, there was concern that the spread of COVID-19 would overwhelm a fragile health system. To prevent that from happening, a group of Puerto Rican scientists banded together to ramp up testing. In this episode, two scientists show us how Puerto Rico went from one of the U.S. jurisdictions with the least testing to over 100,000 COVID tests.
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How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response

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How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response

How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response

How Puerto Rican Scientists Hacked The COVID-19 Response

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/872471989/872513502" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

COVID-19 testing kits. Via the Centers for Disease and Control hide caption

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Via the Centers for Disease and Control

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.