New Virus Hot Spots: U.S. Islands from Hawaii to Puerto Rico

New Virus Hot Spots: U.S. Islands from Hawaii to Puerto Rico


Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced this month that hotels and Airbnb operators would be prohibited from accepting new guests for 30 days. Mr. Bryan also ordered bars, nightclubs and cabarets to shut down until Aug. 31.

The territory, which has 103,000 residents, was already trying to bounce back after being hit in 2017 with Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two rare Category 5 storms. Tourism, which accounts for a third of the economy in the U.S. Virgin Islands, remains its largest source of employment.

Puerto Rico, the most populous U.S. territory with about 3.2 million residents, showcases how the pandemic is accentuating pre-existing economic and political problems. Puerto Rico imposed the nation’s first lockdown in March, before California became the first state to do so — indeed, before the word “lockdown” started becoming part of the nation’s vocabulary.

The stringent measures helped keep the virus under control and the island’s underequipped hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Scientists collaborated to expand the island’s testing capacity amid shortages of chemicals and other materials, and promoted pooled testing long before most states.

The lockdown led to an unemployment crisis that forced hundreds of workers to line up for assistance before dawn, and sometimes overnight. Already, Puerto Ricans have endured 14 years of economic sluggishness, several devastating recent hurricanes and, in January, a flurry of earthquakes and aftershocks.

With cases trending upward, Gov. Wanda Vázquez held a televised address last week to announce a stay-at-home order that would apply for the next three Sundays, the latest in a series of escalating restrictions meant to keep people from socializing with friends or family. Violators of the island’s mask order will be subject to a $100 fine, while a nightly curfew remains in effect.

On Thursday, a day after Ms. Vázquez imposed the latest restrictions, Puerto Rico’s Senate closed after cases were identified among high-ranking elected officials, including several legislators, the speaker of the House of Representatives and two top aides to Pedro R. Pierluisi, the nominee for governor from the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Representative Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, also tested positive.



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