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Costa Rica adding coronavirus cases at faster rate than United States

September 15, 2020

The number of new coronavirus cases in Costa Rica has spiked dramatically, and today the country is adding infections at a faster rate than the United States.

Over the last seven days, the Costa Rican Health Ministry has confirmed 8,581 new cases. This represents 172 cases per 100,000 inhabitants of Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, the United States has added 79 cases per 100,000 people over the same span (257,115 cases total), according to The New York Times. If Costa Rica were a state, it would rank 49th in terms of new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week — behind only North Dakota.

Costa Rica’s 172 new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days ranks higher than all but six countries: Aruba, Bahrain, Israel, Andorra, Montenegro and Argentina.

A worrying test-positivity rate

While the increase in new cases corresponds to more testing, it also reflects a higher test-positivity rate (the fraction of tests that come back positive).

According to Johns Hopkins University, the test-positivity rate “can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases.” The World Health Organization recommends testing enough to keep the positivity rate under 5%.

Costa Rica’s consistently high test-positivity rate suggests it’s missing milder or asymptomatic cases, allowing the coronavirus to continue to spread.

Costa Rica coronavirus test positivity on September 14, 2020
Costa Rica coronavirus test positivity on September 14, 2020. Tico Times graph.

Deaths and hospitalizations also rising

Costa Rica has announced 621 COVID-19-related deaths. On three separate occasions in September, the country has set a day-over-day record in new deaths. Over the last week, several hospitals installed temporary morgues to handle these patients.

Hospitalizations also continue to rise. Costa Rica began June with 18 COVID-19 patients hospitalized; it began July with 56; it began August with 346; and it began September with 448. Halfway through September, the number of hospitalized patients has risen to 620.

Costa Rica has 359 intensive-care beds and 986 beds for less-complex coronavirus hospitalizations. As of Monday, 68% of Costa Rica’s ICU beds are occupied.

According to Mario Ruís, medical manager of Costa Rica’s Social Security System, about 20% of hospitalized coronavirus patients and 45% of the ICU patients die.


If you believe you have COVID-19, contact Costa Rica’s hotline at 1322. English-speaking staff and mental health professionals are available.

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