Costa Rica is ready to welcome back tourists, even a select few from some of the United States. But Costa Rica picked the wrong states, something seems awry.
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Costa Rica Re-Opens to Residents of Six US States
Big news out of one of the prettiest countries on earth this week, Costa Rica is once again opening its doors to American visitors; some American visitors.
There are some rules, as you might have guessed. Visitors can only fly into one of three airports, two in San Jose (SJO, SYQ) and one in Liberia (LIR.) Visitors must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 48 hours of arrival (difficult to time) and carry $50,000 in insurance for their visit.
Residents of the following states are permitted to visit:
State driver’s licenses and/or other residency identifiers qualify a tourist to enter.
Costa Rica Picked the Wrong States
Costa Rican officials claim that the choice was a medical one:
“In these six states there has been a very positive evolution of the pandemic and their epidemiological indicators are of high quality,” Gustavo Segura, Minister of Tourism of Costa Rica.
It wasn’t just the six US States added to the list (for entry on September 1st), a few other nations were welcomed back without segmented/provincial residency restrictions. Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the UK, and Uraguay were allowed entry from August 19th.
Hmmm. Do all of those places have high-quality epidemiological indicators?
Costa Rica is happy to welcome, without limitation, six of the top ten most deadly countries in the world for COVID-19 patients. It limits the United States to those that reside in just six states which means allowing in 7/10 of the highest possible risk countries (with an asterisk for the US.) If just the states that were permitted entry into the US were part of this list, the US states chosen would be nearly the top of the list.
The US States with the lowest mortality per infection are:
|State||Cases per 100k People||Deaths per 100k People||Mortality Rate|
You’ll notice that three of the states welcomed made the list, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. But New York City is so high that it has its own classification according to the same data from the CDC. In fact, New York City alone has a 10% mortality rate, New Jersey and Connecticut 8% and 9% respectively.
And yet, we are to believe this is a medical decision reached scientifically?
What Costa Rica is Really Doing
It’s clear that Costa Rica is shopping for tourists, but not just any tourists, they want rich tourists. Other states have lower case numbers than those included in the permitted six states. In fact, some of those states currently have an infection rate above Costa Rica’s own. The below data is from John Hopkins via Google and demonstrates a relatively low incident rate with respect to Costa Rica’s 2018 population listed at 4.999MM. Of those infected in Costa Rica, mortality remains just about 1%.
Costa Rican officials are mixing two kinds of math. One set of figures say, “you can’t let other states in because there are too many cases.” I can get on board with that, it’s logical and speaks to keeping Costa Rica infections low. Had they picked low infection and low mortality rate states like Hawai’i and Montana, that would make sense.
But they didn’t.
The real math they are using is how much tourism revenue the country is losing. How else could one justify letting any Belgian into the country with an 8.6% mortality rate, but not all Americans, many of which have the same mortality rate as Costa Rica? If it’s based on the trend line of cases and mortality, other states would move to the front of the line ahead of New York and New Jersey. Pennsylvania had just 384 new cases on August 17th compared with a peak on April 9th of 1,989. Many of those new cases occurred around Philadelphia, a short distance from New York City.
It goes back to the Disney fallacy – just allow in those most likely to spend more money, exclude those that otherwise qualify but may spend less. I think it will backfire as it did for Disney World, but I can also understand it to a certain degree. What good is beating the virus (with an ever declining mortality and hospitalization rate) only to deal with mass unemployment and hunger because the businesses that support 12% of the population have gone under?
My family loved our trip to the Andaz Papagayo near Liberia in Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful resort in a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and great food. I’d love to visit again but I am not a resident of a qualifying state; our mortality rate in Pennsylvania is 6%, well below other countries allowed and some of the states chosen, but somehow not good enough. Further, if everyone that enters is required to carry substantial insurance and possess a negative COVID-19 test, wouldn’t that qualify everyone for entry that wants to visit?
I don’t necessarily have a problem with Costa Rica shopping the tourists it chooses to accept. But by limiting it to just six states, half of which have no epidemiological qualifier over others, it’s dishonest and disingenuous.
What do you think? Did Costa Rica choose the right states? If all entrants are COVID-19 negative and carry sufficient coverage, does it really matter where they reside? Do you agree that Costa Rica was dishonest about its motives?