Last updated July 31, 2020
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2020 — Yellow
Tourist borders opened in July and travel is starting to resume here, however we’re being very cautious about the overall virus situation. In this Humanitarian program, our volunteers live and serve in poorer neighborhoods where the virus has really taken its toll. Our friends in the DR are anxious for when ILP volunteers will be able to come back, but we’re considering all factors before that can happen. The DR may need more time to get a handle on virus management, but we are hopeful that will happen soon.
Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to the Dominican Republic again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.
Flights and tourism started returning to the island on July 1st — a really happy update, since there were severe restrictions put in place in the middle of March to help prevent the spread of the virus. The DR’s economy greatly benefits from tourism, so this is great news.
No visa is required for visitors or ILP volunteers, so that’s a go!
Flights aren’t an issue, with many airlines reporting more and more flights to this island nation. American Airlines and Delta are just two airlines that have added more and more itineraries to airports in the Dominican Republic.
Plan on new changes like having your temperature checked before/after getting on the plane and wearing a face mask on your flight.
The virus trends in the Dominican Republic are proving tricky to track. Also, the number of cases are not spread out equally across neighborhoods. Poorer neighborhoods (like those where ILP volunteers live) tend to have higher rates of people with complicating health risks, tend not to follow restrictions that help reduce the spread of the virus as closely, and tend not to seek institutionalized medicine as readily.
Although the reported case, hospitalization, and death levels are not extremely high, our local contacts report that sadly the virus is still very strong right now in areas where ILP volunteers would live. There are fears that attribution standards are inconsistent. Testing capacity and accessibility is limited, and although the local healthcare is not currently overwhelmed, the rate of increase in virus numbers is high. Based on a few of our local contacts’ experiences, testing is lacking, and the number of ill and hospitalized people seems to be growing rapidly.
From what’s being reported, the DR falls in the same “red” zone that the US does, according to International SOS, meaning there continues to be a high number of new cases. As of August 4th, the nation reports 305 active cases per 100,000 people.
The pandemic has hit tourism and the economy in the Dominican Republic extensively. Many people in the poorer neighborhoods, like where volunteers live during the program, have been reduced from poverty to subsistence levels. The volunteers and all the good they bring (above and beyond teaching English) is sorely needed now in the DR. We hope and pray that conditions will allow the program to return soon.
We’ve been in close contact with our friends in the Dominican Republic and have been told that all schools in ILP areas will be open for online classes only, with no in-person teaching. There is not a timeline for when this will change — we expect this will continue at least through September.
More and more tourist sites are preparing to open, which means resorts, beaches, and snorkel tours. Stores and businesses are open and the strict curfew has been removed. Daily activities are getting back to normal which is good news for locals and incoming tourists, and getting the economy moving again.
Out & About
Hotels have been opened for tourists since the beginning of July, with parameters in place like temperature checks when you check in. Tour agencies are also following safety and protocols like maintaining 50% capacity on snorkel tours and other island adventures.
Travel and tourism is expected to be fully open by August which means visitors can soak up everything we love about this little island. Take a trip to stay in a treehouse village, swim in blue lagoons, go ziplining in the jungle, find the best beaches for snorkeling and more. We love way too many of the adventures found in the DR to pick favorites!
Typically, ILP volunteers have so much to explore in the Dominican Republic they don’t leave the country. Some island hopping to other countries might be a possibility, but we think you’d rather find your favorite beach, go horseback riding to waterfalls, and spend Saturdays snorkeling and trekking through the jungle — all of that (and more) can be done without ever leaving the DR.
Okay, now what? Should I still apply for the DR?
If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.
We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that a Fall 2020 semester in that location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. Departures for Fall 2020 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Spring 2021 volunteers.
So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.
We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!