Leadership Strategy

Important Facts About The Spread Of Coronavirus In Mexico City


Covid-19 continues to spread in Mexico. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is the epicenter of the contagion. Mexico’s Ministry of Health reported 5,067 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the country between June 17 and June 23, the highest weekly total so far.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been tracking the confirmed Covid-19 deaths that Mexico’s Ministry of Health reports every day. While overall in Mexico, the trend in new deaths recorded by the Ministry of Health looks like this:

I took a look through the information on Mexico City in Mexico’s National Epidemiological Oversight (SINAVE) database. Although there are complaints about under-reporting and insufficient testing, Mexico City has seen the number of weekly deaths stabilize, but not decline significantly. In Mexico City the trend of confirmed Covid-19 deaths (through June 16) looks like this:

As of June 22, 2020 Mexico’s SINAVE database contained 5,580 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Mexico City. Mexico’s Ministry of Health does not have a system that allows the collection of real-time collection of data on deaths so the deaths reported on any given day are likely from previous days or even from weeks earlier. Public health officials have to deal with a lag of about a week to get meaningful data that provides insights on the magnitude of the spread and impact of the virus.

The worst-affected areas of Mexico’s capital city are heavily populated low-income districts such as Iztapalapa, Ciudad Neza and Ecatepec. Iztapalapa, the neighborhood where the city’s huge Central de Abasto market is located, has recorded 869 confirmed Covid-19 deaths so far. As of June 22, the top ten most affected areas of Mexico City are:

Overall, the average age of coronavirus patients included in the official list of confirmed deaths is 60.6. Overall, over half (51.8%) of patients confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in Mexico City had asthma, diabetes or obesity. While most fatalities fall in the 60-79 age bracket, Mexico City is seeing high numbers of fatalities in the 40-59 age group. Of the 2,131 patients in the 40-59 age group who have been confirmed to have died of Covid-19, 29.9% were obese, 32.1% had diabetes and 10.9% smoked. Nearly half (810 out of 1735 or 46.7%) of the Covid-19 patients age 35-55 who died in Mexico City were not categorized as having diabetes, asthma or obesity.

The SINAVE database contains information on the occupation of coronavirus patients. While significant numbers of patients are listed simply as employees, home-makers, or retired, the data shows that shop-keepers, taxi and ride-hailing app drivers and health workers have been affected. Overall, as of June 22, the official list of confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Mexico City includes 539 shop-keepers, 233 livery drivers, and 188 healthcare workers. Overall, shop-keepers account for 9.7% of total deaths, livery drivers for 4.7%, and healthcare workers for 3.2%. The official tally of confirmed deaths includes only 18 teachers, 0.3% of the total. The high incidence of shop-keepers is likely due to the fact that many informal and formal vendors have continued to operate even as the city remains on “red-alert” level quarantine. The high proportion of livery drivers adds credence to the theory that spending time in enclosed spaces with strangers is one of the highest-risks forms of transmission of the virus. The low proportion of teachers is thanks to quick action by Mexico’s Ministry of Education to suspend classes early on in the pandemic. The fact that nearly 200 health workers have died of Covid-19 in Mexico City is a tragedy within a tragedy. Doctors and nurses in Mexico City continue to complain that they aren’t being given adequate protective equipment to allow them to safely treat patients.

Mexico’s public health officials continue to re-assure the public that hospitals in Mexico City have not been overwhelmed and still have space to treat new patients.

Some of the data on patient deaths, however, is less comforting. On average coronavirus patients in Mexico City have died after spending only eight days in the hospital. Nearly 30% of patients died after spending three days or fewer in the hospital. As of June 22, 78.7% of patients died without ever being connected to a ventilator. Only 21.3% of patients who were confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in Mexico City were treated with a ventilator.

Nearly 8 out of 10 patients who have been officially confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in Mexico City never had access to a ventilator. As of June 22, Mexico’s Ministry of Health reports that 65% of hospital beds in Mexico City are free for treating new patients. Serious questions remain about the level of care Mexico’s over-burdened and under-funded hospitals are able to provide right now.

The more important question is where Mexico City can go from here. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has delayed taking further steps to re-open the economy, urging the capital’s residents to only go out to conduct essential activities. Mexico City is now caught in an impossible situation. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a politician known for his pro-poor, anti-elite rhetoric and incoherent policy platform, is taking a laissez-faire, neoliberal approach to confronting the coronavirus crisis. He urges residents to confront their fears and return to work but is also choosing to not invest in any sort of major new income-subsidy or unemployment insurance program that would allow residents to stay at home. Lopez Obrador praises residents’ responsibility as individuals but offers no state-based solutions. The absence of effective leadership from Mexico’s president is already proving to be deadly. It’s still unclear how the dynamic in Mexico City will evolve. The number of new cases continues to rise nation-wide and thousands of patients are dying every week. Moving forward residents will be squeezed between the threats of a sharply contracting economy and a spreading pandemic. It’s going to be a long, difficult summer in Mexico City.





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