The 2021-22 school year resumes Monday, but students in some states won’t return to the classroom due to the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
The Ministry of Public Education (SEP) published a statement Sunday announcing that it was ready for the return to in-person classes after the winter vacation period. It called on school communities across the country to “be part of this return.”
Schools will reopen safely in accordance with the health guidelines outlined in the Guide for the Responsible and Orderly Return to School, the SEP said.
However, authorities in several states announced that neither in-person nor virtual classes would resume on Monday due to the heightened risk of coronavirus infection.
In Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Querétaro and Guanajuato, students won’t return to the classroom until next Monday, while in San Luis Potosí, Baja California and Baja California Sur – currently the country’s coronavirus epicenter – schools won’t reopen until January 17.
In five other states – Chihuahua, Coahuila, Jalisco, Yucatán and Quintana Roo – authorities announced that only virtual classes would be offered this week. Authorities in some other states said that students could choose between in-person and virtual classes.
Classes were slated to resume in Hidalgo on Monday but the SNTE teachers union said Saturday that its members won’t return to work until the middle of the month. Teachers and other school employees have not yet been offered booster shots but the SEP said they will receive them in the first weeks of 2022.
The resumption of the 2021-22 school year comes as Mexico enters what appears to be an omicron-fueled fourth wave of coronavirus infections.
The Health Ministry reported 10,037 new cases on Friday and 10,864 on Sunday. It didn’t publish any coronavirus data on New Year’s Day.
Mexico’s accumulated case tally rose to 3.99 million on Sunday while the official COVID-19 death toll increased to 299,544. Estimated active cases number 48,801, a figure that has more than doubled in less than a week.
In other COVID-19 news:
• The State Workers Social Security Institute (ISSTE) has asked its health care facilities to prepare for an increase in hospitalizations of COVID patients.
“The number of cases expected [in the fourth wave] is very high and due to this increase … it’s expected that the number of hospitalizations will increase exponentially,” it said in an internal memorandum.
Signed by ISSSTE health regulations director Ramiro López Elizalde, the memo directs health care facilities to be ready to reconfigure their wards and add beds for COVID patients if they are required. It also warns that omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants.
“It will lead to an increase in walk-in consultations … and therefore attention in triage areas will need to be strengthened,” the memo said. It predicted that a lot of cases will be mild, with patients suffering bronchial rather than pulmonary symptoms.
• In an interview before Christmas, infectious disease specialist Alejandro Macías said events that attract large numbers of people should be canceled due to the emergence of omicron, as the World Health Organization recommended. However, many large events, such as a Christmas fair in Mexico City’s central square, went ahead in the final days of 2021.
Experts have warned that large gatherings over the Christmas-New Year period will inevitably lead to an increase in case numbers this month.
Macías warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed by admissions of COVID patients, even though evidence suggests omicron tends to cause milder disease.
Federal data shows there are currently 2,196 hospitalized COVID patients, with general care wards for such patients at 100% capacity in 66 hospitals.
• The risk of coronavirus infection has increased in Colima, authorities said. The small Pacific coast state remains low risk green on the federal stoplight map but the Colima Health Ministry announced Sunday that, based on its own calculations, it would switch to medium risk yellow. The state will remain yellow until at least January 16.
There are 167 active cases in Colima, authorities said Monday, with the highest number – 73– in Colima city. Most of the other active cases are in Villa de Álvarez (48) and Manzanillo (29).
Occupancy rates for both general care hospital beds and beds with ventilators have recently risen in Colima. Just over one-third of the former are in use while 22% of the latter are occupied.
• Baja California Sur remains Mexico’s coronavirus epicenter with about 500 active cases per 100,000 people. As of Sunday, it had just under 4,200 active cases, the second highest among Mexico’s 32 states after Mexico City, where there are over 13,000 people who currently have symptoms.
Mexico City and Quintana Roo are the only other states with more than 100 active cases per 100,000 residents. The capital has about 140 current infections per 100,000 people, official data shows, while Quintana Roo has approximately 130.