The Mexico City government has called for citizens to go into “total isolation” as hospitals in the capital come under intense pressure due to an increase in the hospitalization of coronavirus patients.
“Covid-19 emergency. The hospitals are at their limit. Return to total isolation,” the government said in a cell phone message sent to residents on Saturday, the day red light restrictions took effect.
“Only essential sectors are open from today. Don’t go out. No parties.”
Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has blamed a recent increase of both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the capital on people’s attendance at parties and large family gatherings.
Just over 85% of general care beds set aside for coronavirus patients in Mexico City are currently occupied, according to federal data, while 74% of those with ventilators are in use.
There were just over 5,000 coronavirus patients in Mexico City hospitals on Sunday night, including 1,280 on ventilators.
Many hospitals in Mexico City and the surrounding metropolitan area of México state, which has also switched to red on the federal government’s stoplight map, are completely full.
There were fewer than 700 general care hospital beds available in the capital on Sunday and just 365 intensive care beds, Sheinbaum said. Family members of some extremely sick coronavirus patients have found that locating an available bed is extremely difficult.
The Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), a major public healthcare provider, said on the weekend that its hospitals in the greater Mexico City metropolitan area have reached capacity.
Medical personnel at the IMSS La Raza National Medical Center in the capital’s north end told the newspaper Reforma that when intubated Covid-19 patients die, their beds and the ventilators they were connected to are immediately occupied by new patients.
Raúl Palafox, a nurse, said that many coronavirus patients are arriving at La Raza in a very serious condition and require immediate intubation. Some die shortly after they arrive, he said, adding that admissions to the facility and deaths have increased in the past two weeks.
“Up to eight patients are dying in a single shift,” Palafox said.
He said that the hospital is understaffed, explaining that only 60% of medical personnel are currently working because they are in isolation at home or on end-of-year vacations.
The IMSS has acknowledged its staffing problems in the Mexico City metropolitan area, announcing that health workers from states with lower numbers of hospitalized coronavirus patients will be transferred to the capital.
“In the coming days, 640 doctors and nurses from all over the country, especially the southeast, will arrive,” said director Zoé Robledo.
Hospitals in Mexico City operated by other public healthcare providers including the State Workers Social Security Institute, the federal Ministry of Defense and local and federal health ministries are also under severe pressure.
Admissions of coronavirus patients at the General Hospital of Mexico, operated by the federal Health Ministry, began increasing in the middle of November, and the facility is now at saturation point.
Workers say that many patients are arriving when they are extremely ill or even after they have passed away.
“Two dead patients arrived … [last] week,” one health worker told Reforma. “They arrive without vital signs; they’re dead when they arrive but their family members don’t realize.”
The health worker said that some patients remain in the hospital’s emergency department for up to a week because there are no beds available in the Covid ward. The medical personnel are exhausted, he added.
Despite the authorities’ appeal for Mexico City residents to stay at home, large numbers of people flocked to the capital’s downtown area on Saturday. Reforma reported that some nonessential businesses such as shoes, clothing and toy stores and Christmas decoration retailers defied the government’s order to close their doors.
Police officer Guillermo Salinas said it wasn’t easy to keep people a safe distance from each other with so many nonchalant shoppers in the streets.
“We came to … stop people crowding together but they don’t understand,” he said. “They keep coming in [to the historic center] and they don’t wear face masks. It’s very bad.”
Many other states are also facing difficult situations due to a recent spike in case numbers and hospitalizations.
In addition to Mexico City and México state, Baja California is currently classified as a red light “maximum” risk state while 24 states are at the orange light “high” risk level.
Occupancy of general care hospital beds is 78% in Baja California and México state, 71% in Guanajuato, 66% in Hidalgo and 63% in Nuevo León, according to federal data.
There are almost 90,000 active coronavirus cases across the country, according to Health Ministry estimates, and the accumulated case tally stands at 1.32 million after an additional 6,870 cases were reported Sunday.
The official Covid-19 death toll is 118,202, including 326 additional fatalities registered on Sunday. Mexico City’s death toll passed 20,000 on Sunday while there have been more than 13,300 fatalities in neighboring México state, which includes many municipalities that are part of the capital’s metropolitan area.
Mexico City leads the country for estimated active cases with almost 36,000 – a figure that is likely a significant underestimate – while México state ranks second with more than 9,600.
Active case numbers are in the thousands in many other states including Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Baja California, Coahuila, Sonora, Jalisco, Tabasco and Querétaro.
Authorities in Querétaro, an orange light state where hospital occupancy is just under 50% for both general care and critical care beds, announced that tighter restrictions would take effect Monday due to rising case numbers and hospitalizations.
Retail stores and shopping centers are now limited to 30% capacity and must close by 5:00 p.m., cantinas and bars are prohibited from opening and restaurants are required to close their doors by 8:00 p.m and mustn’t exceed 50% capacity. The sale of alcohol after 8:00 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday is banned.
Gyms are also limited to 30% capacity and customers must make a prior appointment before their workouts. Social gatherings of more than 25 people are banned and must conclude by 8:00 p.m.
Querétaro is one of six states that are at risk of regressing to red on the stoplight map, health official Ricardo Cortés said Friday. The others are Sonora, Zacatecas (red for the past two weeks), Guanajuato, Aguascalientes and Hidalgo.
The economic restrictions in Mexico City and México state are not scheduled to ease until January 11. They could be extended if the shutdown doesn’t succeed in driving case numbers and hospitalizations down. That is a real possibility as many people are likely to defy recommendations and gather with their extended families and friends for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.