Covid-19 Preparedness at QERC
The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has compelled us to implement preventative precautions in order to keep staff and visitors to our field station safe. We take the risk of Covid-19 infection seriously, and strive to remain up-to-date on the recommended safety procedures by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, the U.S. State Department’s Travel Site, the CDC, Southern Nazarene University’s policies in Bethany, Oklahoma, and the guidelines put in place by our local community.
Currently, the measures we are adopting on-site include social distancing (limited interaction with the public, reduced operating capacity, and maintaining distances of more than 1.8m apart), frequent hand-washing, the use of masks or face shields, and regular disinfection of surfaces.
We are confident and encouraged by the efforts taken by the Costa Rican government to protect people residing within its borders and keep us healthy. We feel an extra measure of protection due to the isolation of our field station and lack of contact with dense urban centers and other locations of high risk. The national health system performs regular testing, is strategic and organized in its control of the infections, and care of infected individuals is readily available. At the time of writing (June 29, 2020), there have been no infections in our district (Dota), only 15 deaths country-wide, and 3,130 total confirmed cases (1,366 recovered, 1,749 active). Costa Rica’s containment of the novel coronavirus, especially relative to many other countries in the Americas, has been successful.
That being the case, the risk of infection is always present, and we are doing our best to mitigate that risk. In case of infection, we have a quarantine location prepared, access to health care providers that are trained and know how to respond to the virus, and the Costa Rican health care system is well-positioned to deal with new cases.
We have not changed scheduling plans for our 2021 Spring Semester Program, though we are closely watching the factors that most directly impact our program’s operations: international travel restrictions, national parks, hospitality services, and face-to-face instruction. To date our instructional activities have not been impacted by viral infection, but rather by restrictions implemented nation-wide that are designed to protect and contain the spread of the virus. These safety measures have been saving lives and keeping people safe, and so we are grateful for them, but they are beyond our control and have the most impact on what activities we are able to plan. Costa Rica is planning to open its airports to incoming visitors from countries that are containing the coronavirus spread on August 1st.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict or plan confidently what the situation will look like in a year, in a month, or even in a week. We are planning out the best study abroad experience we can offer in the spring semester of 2021, but are also positioning ourselves to change and adapt based on what options are available to us.
Some sites for reference: