The number of high risk orange states has increased from nine to 15 on the federal government’s new coronavirus stoplight map, while just four states are low risk green, down from 12 on the previous one.
Thirteen states are medium risk yellow, an increase of three, but there are no red maximum risk states after the risk level in Aguascalientes was downgraded to orange.
In addition to Aguascalientes, the orange states are Baja California; Durango; Sonora; Chihuahua; Sinaloa; Nayarit; Jalisco; Colima; Zacatecas; Coahuila; Nuevo León; Tamaulipas; San Luis Potosí; and Querétaro.
The four green states are Veracruz, Tlaxcala, Chiapas and Campeche.
The new map takes effect as Mexico continues to endure an omicron-fueled fourth wave of infections. Just over 37,000 new cases were reported Friday, more than 35,000 were registered Saturday and in excess of 10,000 were added to the accumulated case tally on Sunday.
The confirmed case count passed 5 million last Wednesday and now stands at 5.15 million. Just under 183,000 cases are active, according to Health Ministry estimates.
Colima has the highest number of active cases on a per capita basis with almost 600 per 100,000 people. Baja California Sur ranks second followed by Mexico City, Nayarit and Tlaxcala.
The official COVID-19 death toll is 309,546 after more than 1,400 fatalities were reported over the past three days.
The occupancy rate for general care beds in COVID wards is 40%, the Health Ministry reported Sunday, while 27% of those with ventilators are in use.
In other COVID-19 news:
• The COVID positivity rate – the percentage of tests that come back positive – has never been so high, the director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) tweeted Saturday.
Laurie Ann Ximénez-Fyvie said that 25 of Mexico’s 32 states had a positivity rate above 60% and 15 of those states had a rate above 70%.
She posted a table that showed that Quintana Roo had the highest rate at almost 88%, while five other states – Nayarit, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Colima and Baja California – also had rates above 80%.
The Harvard University-trained doctor in medical sciences also said that the positivity rate in 29 states is undergoing a “sustained increase.”
Her Twitter posts were in sharp contrast with a remark made by Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell last Tuesday. The coronavirus point man said the positivity rate was falling, a trend he asserted was a sign of a receding fourth wave.
Ximénez-Fyvie also challenged López-Gatell’s assertion that the fourth wave is on the wane.
“There is no way to argue that its declining when the positivity rate is at a ridiculously high level,” she told the newspaper El Economista.
• Mexico’s high positivity rate is largely a product of the strategy to use testing to confirm serious suspected cases of COVID rather than to stop the spread of the virus through the detection and isolation of infected people. The federal government last month advised people not to get tested unless they have essential medical reasons to do so.
Mexico has performed just over 110,000 tests per million people, according to data compiled by German statistics portal Statista, a rate well below that of many other countries.
The United Kingdom, for example, has conducted 6.7 million tests per million people, while France and Portugal have rates above 3 million. The United States and Canada have performed 2.7 million and 1.5 million tests per million people, respectively.
“Without sufficient tests we’re flying blind,” Ximénez-Fyvie tweeted.
Andreu Comas García, a virologist and researcher at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, claimed that 99% of countries around the world and 85% of those in the Americas have higher testing rates than Mexico. Testing here is not sufficient to make an accurate assessment of how the pandemic is evolving, he told El Economista.
• Both Ximénez-Fyvie and Comas criticized the government’s decision not to vaccinate most children aged under 15.
The former noted that there are currently more minors in hospital with COVID than at any other time in the pandemic. She also highlighted that the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use on children as young as five in many countries around the world.
The question for the government, Ximénez-Fyvie said, is: what is the acceptable number of deaths among children for a disease that can be prevented through vaccination? The answer, she opined, should be zero.
Citing official data, Comas said that COVID is 2.4 times more lethal for children under six than influenza and 1.9 times more deadly than the respiratory syncytial virus, which is common among infants.
He challenged the government’s claims about COVID deaths among Mexican children, which number more than 800. López-Gatell said in late January that the probability of a child dying due to COVID if they’re healthy is “very, very low — approximately 274 times lower than … adults.”
Echoing Ximénez-Fyvie’s remarks, Comas said that any death from a disease preventible by vaccination is unacceptable.
• Since the beginning of the omicron wave, 72% of people who have died with COVID were aged over 60, according to an analysis conducted by UNAM researcher Héctor Hernández Bringas.
Before the omicron wave, 62% of deaths were among people above that age. The average age of a person who died with COVID in January was 67, compared to 62 before that month.
Hernández also found that the percentage of people who died with COVID during the omicron wave who had high blood pressure or diabetes was higher than before the wave began. His findings support the consensus that the highly contagious strain is less dangerous than other variants for most people. However, omicron is potentially lethal for people with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.