Thursday, June 13, 2024

COVID’s fifth wave on the wane but some hospitals still seeing high demand for beds

July was the second worst month of the coronavirus pandemic in terms of new cases, but the fifth wave has now begun to ease, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Tuesday.

Mexico recorded 699,967 new cases last month, the highest monthly total after January of this year, when over 960,000 new infections were registered amid the omicron-fueled fourth wave.

López-Gatell, the federal government’s coronavirus point man, presented data Tuesday that showed that case numbers began to trend downwards in the first half of July. An average of over 28,000 cases per day were recorded between July 3 and 9 – the peak for any week last month – but the daily figure decreased to just under 8,000 between July 24 and 30, a decline of over 70%.

“We now have a very clearly established downward trend,” López-Gatell told President López Obrador’s regular news conference.

people waiting for COVID testing outside Queretaro pharmacy
A line of people waiting for COVID testing at a pharmacy in Querétaro in July.

“… There are fewer cases in a week compared to the previous week, there are fewer cases per day compared to the previous day. It’s expected that this trend … will be maintained until we reach minimal levels [of cases] in this fifth wave,” he said.

A prediction that Mexico could record some 70,000 new cases per day at the peak of the fifth wave didn’t come to pass, although widespread testing has never been a strong suit here.

While the coronavirus has spread rapidly across the country during the fifth wave, COVID-19 has caused far fewer deaths than earlier in the pandemic. López-Gatell said that vaccination has “very significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization and the risk of death, and for that reason we will continue calling on the public to get vaccinated.”

The vast majority of adults and a growing number of children are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The official death toll rose by 2,014 in July with an average of 65 fatalities reported each day. The former figure is 94% lower than the 32,729 COVID deaths recorded in January 2021, the worst month for pandemic fatalities.

An additional 133 fatalities were reported Tuesday, lifting Mexico’s COVID death toll to 327,883 – the fifth highest total in the world. The accumulated case tally rose to just over 6.78 million with over 21,000 new infections reported Tuesday, while almost 137,000 cases are estimated to be active.

López-Gatell said that authorities had expected occupancy in hospital COVID wards to rise in the coming weeks — increases in hospitalizations and deaths tend to lag spikes in case numbers — but noted that it has in fact declined.

“Last week, [occupancy] was at 18% for general care beds. Today, it’s at 16%,” the deputy minister said, referring to the national average.

children being vaccinated in Mexico
The majority of adults in Mexico are vaccinated, and the government is currently focusing on vaccinating children. CDMX Health Ministry

The Health Ministry reported later on Tuesday that occupancy was 15% for general care beds and 6% for those with ventilators.

However, some hospitals continue to face high demand for beds in their COVID wards. Federal data shows that 126 hospitals are currently at 100% capacity for general care beds, while an additional 14 have occupancy rates above 70%. The 126 “at capacity” hospitals are spread across the country, from Baja California in the northwest to Chiapas in the south and Quintana Roo in the southeast.

Federal data also shows that 12 hospitals are at 100% capacity for beds with ventilators, while an additional three have rates above 70%.

In Oaxaca, state authorities reported that general and intensive care COVID units in two hospitals in the municipality of San Bartolo Coyotepec, located just south of Oaxaca city, are completely full. One is a speciality regional hospital and the other is a children’s hospital.

Oaxaca, like all states across the country, recorded a spike in case numbers during the fifth wave, but it is not currently among the most affected states.

Mexico City – the country’s coronavirus epicenter since the beginning of the pandemic – currently has the highest number of active cases in both absolute terms and on a per capita basis. There are over 27,300 active cases in the capital for a rate of just over 300 infections per 100,000 people, federal data shows.

Ranking second to fifth for per capita case numbers are Baja California Sur, Colima, San Luis Potosí and Tlaxcala. Chiapas, Veracruz, Jalisco, Quintana Roo and Michoacán are, in that order, the five states with the fewest cases on a per capita basis.

With reports from Milenio, El Universal and El Financiero 

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