From the first country hit by the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic to the last, the lesson should be clear. The more quickly the problem is recognized, the better. And then, the more swiftly a government can respond with testing and contact tracing for those who test positive; with isolation and care for those made sick, and social distancing to keep those uninfected clear of the disease, the more lives can be saved.
China paid dearly for its weeks of incomprehension and denial before government started to deal with the outbreak in the city of Wuhan. That was clear even as China emphatically applied all the prescribed next steps, and – if their official story can be believed – brought the epidemic under control within three months.
Still, even with China and South Korea and Italy and Iran modeling the devastating potential of the pandemic, even with China and South Korea modeling what to do and how to do it, the U.S. did almost nothing to prepare, and has been caught short on testing, contact tracing, protective gear for medical workers and ventilators for the most threatened patients. Thousands of preventable deaths will be the result.
Mexico has had all the early models, and models for continental spread from Italy to France, Spain, Portugal and Germany, but even after the U.S. started to suffer both from Covid-19 and the Trump Administration’s slipshod response to it, the Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO as he is known, and his government, and much of his nation remained inert to the danger.
Now, as Mexican cases climb to the thousands, and deaths to the hundreds, there is fear and wonder about how the Mexican healthcare system will deal with the growing outbreak.
After all, the first known hotspot of the outbreak in Mexico was a hospital, the national medical service hospital in the town of Monclova in the northern state of Coahuila. By the second half of March, staff at the hospital could see the Covis-19 wave coming and – although the hospital couldn’t provide them – started bringing in their own facemasks to wear.
“Don’t do that,” several nurses told Reuters they were advised. One nurse said she was told, “not to create panic…that we shouldn’t wear facemasks because we were going to create a psychosis.” This nurse is now home sick, one of 51 employees of the Monclova hospital with Covid-19. Two doctors and a hospital administrator have died, and some 300 employees are now in protective quarantine, adding to a national shortage of medically-trained personnel.
The government has announced a hiring campaign, but, although the target is in the thousands, the biggest hiring hall in Mexico City closed its doors on a long line of applicants because it had run out of applications at 800.
Joseph Sorrentino is a freelance journalist and photographer currently based in San Gregorio Atlapulco, Mexico. Before moving to Mexico, he lived in Albuquerque, NM and for more than a dozen years documented the lives of agricultural workers on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.
He is also a playwright. His short plays, known as “The Frankenharry Plays” (they’re named after the actors he worked with while writing them) have been produced across the US, in Canada, England and Australia. His articles, individual photographs and photoessays have appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines. Sorrentino has been awarded playwrighting fellowships by the Pennsylvania Council on The Arts, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundations.
San Gregorio Atlapulco Cosmovisiones by JOSEPH SORRENTINO, FRANCISCO JAVIER MÁRQUEZ JUÁREZ, GISELA LANDÁZURI BENÍTEZ