The COVID-19 virus expanded from China into western Asia, Europe, and North America, impacting many of the world’s wealthiest countries. Brazil reported Latin America’s first case in late February, 2020, and in less than a month, over 7,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among nearly every country and territory in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The LAC outbreak appears to be about two weeks behind the United States and Canada, and about three to four weeks behind western Europe. Thus, the global COVID-19 pandemic is entering a new phase, not only expanding beyond primarily temperate Northern Hemisphere countries into the Tropics, but also spreading to a geopolitical region marked by significantly worse poverty, water access/sanitation, and distrust in public governance (Figure 1). We believe that these aspects of the Latin American context are likely to substantially affect the transmission dynamics and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak in LAC, with potential implications for the trajectory of the global pandemic.