I first heard about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, and a few other countries a few days ago, but nothing here in Costa Rica until March 6, 2020, when an American tourist from New York tested positive for the virus according to the Minister of Health. Tezzy and I had already booked and confirmed a two-day stay in the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area beginning March 25. We had also planned a visit to the Rainforest Spice Farm near Manuel Antonio.
Unfortunately, our short holiday never happened. On Sunday, March 22, Manuel Antonio National Park and all beaches in Costa Rica were ordered to shut down. Regretfully, we canceled our plans and isolated ourselves in our casa (home) for the following weeks, as the government and health officials had recommended. The government and the Health Ministry closed the borders, ports, and airline traffic from other countries until further notice, just as a safety precaution, so any foreigners wanting to leave the country needed to depart at this time.
Here in Costa Rica, the hysteria is not as bad as what I’m hearing about and seeing in the US. The mercados (markets) are fully stocked with produce, and shoppers are not panic buying. There’s no run on toilet paper or any hoarding of supplies, as I’ve seen in the US. Many restaurants, bars, clubs, churches, sporting activities, and public events were encouraged to shut down.
We only went out once a week to visit the local feria (market) for fish, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. Initially, I noticed a lot of the vendors stopped showing up with their produce. A few who showed up, as well as many customers, were wearing face masks.
These are, in fact, some extraordinary times we’re living in that have never happened in our lifetimes, but I’m extremely optimistic that we will come out of this a better people, more humble and prayerful, and have a better and deeper sense of belief in the Almighty.
Update 1: Today is Wednesday, March 25, and as I write this post, Costa Rica has surpassed 201 known cases of coronavirus according to Alejandro Zuniga of the Tico Times. The 201 cases comprise 183 Costa Ricans and 18 foreigners across 39 cantons in all 7 of the country’s provinces. Eight patients are undergoing tests that could clear them as recovered, said Daniel Salas, Minister of Health. Thus far, there have been 2 deaths.
The numbers are creeping up little by little on a regular basis, and it’s a little scary but we must do what we need to do to stay safe and healthy. I think the government and the Health Ministry are doing a great job containing this outbreak, and I pray for all the healthcare workers as well as everyone forced to work through this situation. At a time like this, I couldn’t imagine living in a better place than Costa Rica.
Some 100,000 restaurant workers in Costa Rica have lost their jobs after the closure of more than 40% of the establishments in the sector due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to the Costa Rican Restaurant Chamber (CACORE), 7,980 restaurants have closed this month, leading to the dismissal of 109,440 workers. The majority of these businesses, 88.24%, are micro, small, and medium-sized companies, which cry out to their government for more, better, and timelier actions to avoid having to fire employees, said Clemencia Palomo, a CACORE executive quoted by La Nacion. According to CACORE, sales in shopping mall food courts fell as much as 95%.
Update 2: Although Tezzy and I spend a lot of time indoors, we manage to go out for walks and soak up that natural vitamin D via sunshine, which is vital. What I’ve learned during the past several weeks is that a critical part of combatting any sickness is to have a strong immune system. I believe that now most of the sicknesses and deaths are directly attributed to patients’ suppressed immune systems.
A few weeks ago, we did order some groceries delivered from La Gran Bodega. Here in Costa Rica, it’s very easy to order the necessities on WhatsApp and have them delivered right to your door, although we continue to visit our local feria (market) to purchase fresh fruit, veggies, fish, chicken, and beef.
Be healthy and be safe, but do not fear this! I’ve noticed that many folks in the US are quite fearful, but fear suppresses your immune system as well.
As I complete this post on May 23, Costa Rica has 918 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths, which is the lowest mortality rate in Latin America. I’m not exactly sure how this whole thing will play out, but we will keep you updated in future posts.