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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

In a recently released study of mortality in 24 of Mexico's 32 states, the health ministry found that between mid-March and Aug. 1, the total number of "excess deaths" was 122,765 - or a surge of 59%, though it is not clear that all of those are from the virus.

With so little testing, many deaths in Mexico are listed as "suspected" COVID-19 fatalities, especially among those who die outside of hospitals.

Cases like that of Consuelo Velazquez are not unusual.

In mid-August, the 73-year-old experienced a sore throat, fever and shortness of breath at her home in Cuautitlan, a working-class suburb of the capital.

"But my mother didn't want to go to the hospital," recalled her daughter, Guadalupe Contreras Velazquez, 52. "She said if we took her to the hospital, she would die."

After her death on Aug. 15, her body remained at the house for two days because the pandemic had caused a nationwide shortage of death certificate forms.


This month, a group of six former national health ministers - all of whom served under administrations now in the opposition camp - urged the government to adopt "massive" testing and enforce more stringent social distancing and mask-wearing.

"We cannot become accustomed to a tragedy of this magnitude in which the numbers lose all meaning," Julio Frenk, who is now president of the University of Miami, told a virtual conference outlining the proposal.

It would appear, however, that many in Mexico are not in the mood for further restrictions.

The sentiment is common everywhere, but in a country like Mexico, where half the population is poor and many live day to day off the informal economy, the push to reopen the economy is often framed as a question of basic survival.


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