Medical staff lack equipment and are struggling against the coronavirus pandemic, as the government plays down the contagion
SÃO PAULO—As the new coronavirus ripped through a government-run hospital here, Dilva Barbosa de Oliveira did all she could to save her patients. Then one day, the nurse’s body started to ache.
Ms. Barbosa de Oliveira, 56, grew fatigued, as a fever spiked. She had trouble urinating, started coughing and lost her sense of taste and smell. Gasping for breath, she was rushed to the Employees of São Paulo State Hospital where she worked, this time as a patient in intensive care. She tested positive for Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and died 21 days later, on May 7.
“She loved her job,” said Selma de Araujo Vereda, recalling how her aunt doled out meaningful gestures for the elderly patients she cared for in the geriatrics ward, like getting them haircuts and body creams. “It was her mission to help others.”
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Update (0830ET): Confirming what was already widely suspected, an investigation by the Associated Press appears to have definitively proven that the Mexican government has been deliberately under-counting COVID-19-linked fatalities, a sign that the true size of the outbreak in the country is much larger than official figures reflect. Using data funneled to the AP via an anti-corruption group (it appears the group hacked or otherwise illicitly cajoled its way to the database), the AP determined that Mexico’s death toll is at least 3x the official number.
Although testing has improved somewhat since the beginning of the outbreak, testing for the virus remains “rare” in Mexico, where left-wing leader AMLO hasn’t been willing to impose the same level of restrictions (lockdowns etc) that have been implemented elsewhere in North America, and the world.
Interestingly, the data was
The anti-corruption group Mexicans Against Corruption said in a report Monday that it got access to a database of death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12. It showed that in explanatory notes attached to 4,577 death certificates, doctors included the words “SARS,” “COV2,” “COV,” “Covid 19,” or “new coronavirus.”
Only 323 certificates list confirmed coronavirus as a cause of death; 1,045 other death certificates listed COVID-19 but didn’t specify if it was suspected or confirmed.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has acknowledged there are more deaths than have officially been reported, and has said a special commission will review the death figures. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new report.
Mexico performs relatively few tests; only about 150,000 have been carried out so far in a nation of about 125 million people. Federal officials acknowledge some victims have died without being tested and have pledged that cases where death certificates mention coronavirus as a possible or probable cause of death would eventually be added to official death tolls. But they have suggested those “suspected” cases were only about a tenth of test-confirmed deaths.
The group did not say how it accessed the database, which was kept by local courts. But it noted that official counts showed only 1,060 coronavirus deaths during that March 18-May 12 period.
Mexico City, with about 9 million residents, has been the worst hit part of the country. The additional 3,245 deaths in Mexico City, if they are confirmed or added to official counts, would push the national death toll from the 5,332 reported by federal officials Monday to 8,577.