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Street life slowly returns to Mexico, even as the coronavirus toll climbs

By Patrick J. McDonnell and Cecilia Sanchez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

MEXICO CITY - The stream of vehicles bearing flowers and lost lives has not abated, but vendors are back at the gates of the San Mateo Tlaltenango cemetery.

"We were all scared and stayed away when the coronavirus dead first started arriving," said Victoria Ramirez, who hawks sandwiches, fruit and chips sprinkled with chile and lemon. "But now we see the hearses coming and we say, 'We are going to have good sales today!' "

The official death toll in Mexico quietly surpassed 70,000 this month, a figure topped only in the United States, Brazil and India.

For many, the daily recitations of grim statistics have only registered as abstractions.

"It's terrible that we are normalizing the fact that something like 400 people die every day from COVID-19," lamented columnist Jose Sanchez Zolliker on Twitter.

Street life and all its attendant hubbub - crowded buses and trains, packed parks, jammed highways - have been returning gradually to this metropolis of more than 20 million.

 

Social distancing mandates are often flouted, though masks are the norm. Remote learning remains in place at schools, and large gatherings are still banned.

Both deaths and cases have been on the decline in recent weeks, as have the percentage of positive tests.

But health authorities have warned of potential new outbreaks, especially if people abandon caution, and of possible overlap next month with influenza season.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the undersecretary of health who heads the nation's battle against the virus, has been hesitant to prognosticate since reality intruded on his earlier predictions - that the national death toll would not surpass 8,000, then 35,000, then 60,000, the last of which he termed a "catastrophic" projection.

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