Costa Rica's encouraging Covid trends

Good news to start your Tuesday.

It has been nearly a year since the first coronavirus cases were detected in Costa Rica. The pandemic’s effects have been massive, from the loss of life, to the high unemployment, to the lack of in-person education, to the absence of some everyday pleasures.

Costa Rica has had relatively few restrictions for months. Most businesses and indoor activities are open — including dining, bars, casinos and movie theaters — as are outdoor attractions like national parks and beaches.

With that context, Costa Rica’s coronavirus numbers have been especially encouraging lately. Let’s take a look:

New cases are trending down

Costa Rica reported just 182 new cases on Monday, continuing a downward trend that began in mid-January.

From September through the end of 2020, Costa Rica averaged nearly 1,050 new cases per day. Since January 23, Costa Rica is averaging fewer than 450 new cases per day.

Costa Rica continues to use PCR tests for the vast majority of Covid detection. To debunk a popular myth: The World Health Organization did not tell laboratories to reduce the cycle count in PCR tests.

Percent positive rate is down

The drop in new cases is not because Costa Rica is conducting fewer tests. Instead, the test-positivity rate has dropped significantly. As Johns Hopkins explains:

The percent positive is exactly what it sounds like: the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive.

The percent positive will be high if the number of positive tests is too high, or if the number of total tests is too low. A higher percent positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet.

The World Health Organization says countries should aim for below a 5% test-positivity rate, as that would indicate the epidemic can be contained through testing and contract tracing. Costa Rica isn’t there yet, but it’s a lot closer now than it was a few weeks ago.

The R value is down

The R value measures how many people an infected person will infect, on average. A number higher than one indicates cases will continue to go up; a value smaller than one suggests cases will decrease.

The University of Costa Rica (UCR) estimates the R value in Costa Rica to be at 0.856 as of its most recent calculations from the end of January:

Hospitalizations and deaths are down

This is, of course, the most important statistic of all. How many people are ending up in the hospital with Covid-19, and how many people are dying?

Those numbers are dropping, too. The number of people with Covid-19 in an ICU bed has dropped to 179 since peaking at 250 at various points in December and early January.

Similarly, after averaging 14 deaths per day from Dec. 1 until Feb. 5, Costa Rica has now registered single-digit deaths for 10 consecutive days. This still amounts to 545 Covid-related deaths so far in 2021, but things are trending in the right direction.


Unless otherwise indicated, graphs created by The Costa Rica Daily using official Covid data.

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