The coronavirus situation deteriorated rapidly in a previously Covid-free town in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca after an infected person arrived in a taxi four weeks ago.
Magdalena Tequisistlán, located 65 kilometers inland from the port city of Salina Cruz, has since recorded more than 160 confirmed cases and at least 19 Covid-19 deaths.
Municipal authorities believe that the real number of cases is above 1,000, which would mean that about one in six residents of the indigenous Chontal town has been infected.
With people staying at home to try to avoid the virus, the streets of Magdalena Tequisistlán are largely empty, according to a report by the newspaper El Universal. The ringing of the bells of the local church is one of the few signs of human presence, but their sound signals death rather than life. Since the first Covid-19 fatality in the town, the bells have barely stopped ringing.
Magdalena Tequisistlán is doing all it can to stop more people with the virus arriving in the town. Health checkpoints have been set up where outsiders must stop to have their temperature taken and everyone who arrives is required to register with municipal police.
For residents, the outbreak is “the first wave” of the pandemic, said Mayor Roel Filo Lozano.
“It’s hitting us with all it’s got because it caught us with a clinic without medicine, an abandoned hospital, without vaccines for people in their 30s and with those in their 50s and 40s only having had one dose,” he said.
“… [The authorities] tell us they don’t have [medical] personnel or equipment to attend [to the situation here]. It’s urgent that the federal government send vaccines to protect us because practically one person per day is dying,” Filo said.
Virtually all municipal officials and many police are currently sick with Covid with the mayor one of just a few exceptions among city workers.
Helena Luna, the municipal trustee, told El Universal that she, the mayor and one councilor, all of whom have so far avoided catching the virus, are carrying out a wide range of jobs due to the absence of other municipal workers. They go to Salina Cruz to refill oxygen tanks and the mayor even dug a grave on one occasion because there was no one else to do it, she said.
“My children told me to stop [working], that I’m putting myself at risk, but I have an obligation to the people,” Luna said.
Other members of the community are also rallying to support their fellow residents, including Roberto Ordaz, who delivered free food and medicine to a struggling family that is caring for two members who are sick with Covid and lost its 73-year-old patriarch to the disease last week.
“It’s a small town and we all know each other. That’s why when I found out about the situation of this family I decided to come and leave them something to eat. I believe it’s a time to support each other,” he said.
With reports from El Universal