Meet the Protesters in Puerto Rico Who Want More Testing
Citizens are fed up as Puerto Rico tests for the coronavirus at a far lower rate than the rest of the U.S.
A cacophony of honking and chants erupted Wednesday morning outside the Puerto Rico Health Department headquarters in San Juan. But unlike the pleas spreading across the U.S. to reopen the economy, these protesters, all of whom demonstrated from the confines of their cars, had an altogether different demand: to perform more tests to diagnose the novel coronavirus.
This piquete servicarro — drive-through protest — was organized by three groups: the feminist organization Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, the anti-debt group Jornada: Se Acabaron las Promesas, and the food distribution initiative Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico. “The incompetent handling of these cases by the Health Department impacts the government’s ability to implement public policy,” Shariana Ferrer-Núñez, a spokesperson for Colectiva, said. “We’re using misleading information from the department to say the outbreak is being contained and we could reactivate our economic activity. It’s dangerous.”
The first drive-through protest took place on April 15 — exactly one month after Gov. Wanda Vázquez ordered the island to go into lockdown in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions, some of the strictest in the U.S., have prevented Puerto Rico’s fragile health care system from growing overwhelmed. Still, citizens have been frustrated with the slow rate of testing.
The U.S. territory has a population of 3.2 million people. On average, there have been about 15 coronavirus tests performed a day for every 100,000 people, according to the Covid Tracking Project — a rate far below any state in the U.S.
There have been nearly 12,200 tests performed on the island so far, according to the Puerto Rico Health Department. However, even the low figure was an overcount. Up until Tuesday, someone who tested positive…