By: Diane Román
April 24, 2020
I guess we all had plans for this 2020, but none of them included a global pandemic. Everything changed drastically due to COVID-19 in a few days, and real life has never been closer to fiction: cities are completely empty, international trade has stopped, economies are staggering, and most healthcare systems have collapsed.
Costa Rica is not an exception; however, the crisis has impacted the country differently than other Latin or even Central American countries where contrasts in the region are more evident lately. Costa Rica has a public and universal healthcare system, and has invested a lot in public education since 1948, year when army was abolished. That decision helped strengthen public institutions such as Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social, CCSS (healthcare institution) and University of Costa Rica (the country’s most important university). Both of them have been crucial in handling the coronavirus crisis.
On one hand, la Caja, as ticos call it, not only offers healthcare to every person with COVID-19 (suspect or confirmed) independently of their income, migration status, or any other condition. On the other hand, the Clodomiro Picado Institute from the UCR is working on three plasma-based strategies to treat COVID-19, which makes the country a pioneer at the regional level in creating a treatment against this virus, according to The Tico Times.
Besides that, president Carlos Alvarado announced yesterday that the country prepares to develop its own coronavirus tests. Costa Rica has the lowest mortality rate in Latin America with 0.6% and this week added the fewest number of known COVID-19 cases in more than a month with just 2 new cases last Monday. Today the country registers 687 cases, and 196 people have recovered.
Of course, we feel privileged to be in Costa Rica during these hard times, but it also makes us reflect on how our job at ICADS has changed. Our office is closed, we are all working from home, summer programs were cancelled, and our Spring semester has continued virtually.
However, times of crisis are also opportunities to explore new areas that otherwise we wouldn’t consider, especially in the study abroad sector where the word “online” was almost a contradiction. Now, it represents possibilities, adaptation, and survival.
At ICADS, we’re working on new study abroad online programs that allow students to get to know Latin American and Costa Rican contexts, but most importantly encourages them to reflect. These days, the concepts of social and planetary justice are more important than ever. We need to redirect our paths to more respectful relationships with the environment, and understand that every single decision we make (as people, societies or countries) is political and will impact others.
At ICADS we’re committed to cross-cultural education abroad. We are adapting by engaging the opportunities we have before us in order to continue to work in accordance with our mission.
Included in our course material this semester at ICADS is a video exploring the economic challenges and pressures COVID-19 has imposed on many people in Costa Rica.
Katherine Peters is an intercultural educator, Spanish professor, and former Assistant Director of ICADS in Costa Rica. Check out and follow her new blog "New Backwater" and her reflections on her time in Costa Rica.
Even during COVID-19, here at ICADS we are still seeking to explore important social justice issues. This week, watch Javier's webinar about Costa Rican and Nicaraguan relations during the pandemic.