President López Obrador today contradicted the federal Health Ministry, rejecting its assertion that at least eight states are facing new outbreaks of the coronavirus.
“There are no new outbreaks. There are some states where infections have increased but we can’t speak about a resurgence [of the coronavirus],” he told reporters at his regular news conference.
López Obrador noted that Covid-19 deaths are on the wane – they decreased 51% between October 4 and 10 compared to the previous week, according to Health Ministry data – and claimed that it is “very probable” that Chiapas will soon become the second green light “low” risk state in the country.
(Campeche is the only state currently painted green on the federal government’s coronavirus stoplight risk map.)
The president’s remarks came after the Health Ministry said Sunday that new coronavirus cases increased in Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Hidalgo, Nuevo León, Querétaro and Zacatecas in early October.
“There are eight federal entities with clear statistics of new outbreaks,” said Ruy López Ridaura, director of the Health Ministry’s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control Programs.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s coronavirus point man, presented national data on Tuesday night that showed that new cases numbers increased 4% between October 4 and 10 compared to the previous week.
The spike in new cases followed numerous weeks during which the pandemic in Mexico was on the wane.
López-Gatell said that there are “early signs” of a new wave of infections, noting that in addition to an increase in new case numbers, the positivity rate (the percentage of Covid-19 tests that come back positive) and the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients have recently risen.
The deputy minister also presented updated coronavirus statistics showing that Mexico’s accumulated case tally had risen to 860,714, an increase of 5,788 compared to Monday, and that the official Covid-19 death toll had increased to 86,893 with 555 additional fatalities registered.
He highlighted that only 4% of just under 1 million “estimated” cases in Mexico since the start of the pandemic are currently active.
Despite its low testing rate, Mexico currently has the 10th highest case tally in the world and the fourth highest Covid-19 death toll.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has the highest case fatality rate among the 20 countries currently most affected by Covid-19, with 10.1 deaths per 100 confirmed cases. On a per capita basis, it ranks fourth for deaths among the 20 most affected countries behind only Peru, Brazil and Spain.
López Obrador’s claim that the eight states where numbers are on the rise are not yet facing large new outbreaks provides no comfort for the local authorities.
In Chihuahua, which recorded a 37% spike in new case numbers in early October – the second highest after Durango, the Covid-19 wards of four hospitals are already at capacity.
ISSSTE hospitals in Ciudad Juárez and Delicias are full as are the IMSS general hospitals in Juárez and Nuevo Casas Grandes. Across Chihuahua – which is estimated to have just under 2,400 active cases – more than 80% of hospital beds set aside for coronavirus patients are currently occupied.
Authorities in the other states where case numbers are on the rise are preparing to respond to a new wave of infections.
Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón warned that coronavirus restrictions could soon be tightened in the northern state, which has the second highest number of active cases among the 32 states behind only Mexico City. However, he acknowledged that the state lacks resources to confront a new wave of infections.
Coahuila Governor Miguel Ángel Riquelme said that authorities have agreed to place renewed limits on people’s movement between different parts of the state as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
The northern border state is estimated to have 2,300 active cases, the fifth highest number in the country after Mexico City, Nuevo León, México state and Chihuahua.