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For 2020, nearly 3,000 COVID deaths in Yucatán

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
From left, Verónica Zaldívar Cortés, state head of Epidemiological Surveillance, and Dra. Patricia Muños Miranda, head of the Program Against Respiratory Diseases in Yucatan, have become some of the faces representing Yucatán’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Facebook screengrab

Yucatán closed the year with 26,492 coronavirus cases which led to 2,903 deaths. And those were just the official numbers tabulated from a health system with insufficient testing. The real number could be 10 times that in a state with 2 million inhabitants.

On the final day of 2020, the state’s health ministry also re-evaluated Yucatán’s status on the epidemiological traffic light. Yucatán remained at orange, as it has for months. Orange is one step below the red light, the highest level of alert, limiting economic and social activity without a total lockdown.

Yucatán first detected the coronavirus within its borders on March 13. Daily new infections peaked Aug, 6, rising as high as 248 on the same day 33 patients died. Daily infections now average under 100, including Thursday’s, which totaled 75. Recoveries outnumbered new cases by 30.

Hospitalizations peaked Aug. 4 when 686 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, overwhelming the medical system. Far more ICU and standard hospital beds are available today. In December, most patients were being treated at home, and between 137 and 183 hospital beds were taken by coronavirus patients.

New cases included 63 in Mérida, five in Kanasín and Yaxkabá; four in Valladolid; two in Motul, one in Bokobá, Dzitás, Peto, Tekax and Tizimín; and one patient from outside the state or possibly from another country. Active cases included 634 patients getting care at home and 153 in one of Yucatán’s hospitals.

Also Thursday, a health ministry briefing reported nine COVID-related deaths, five men and four women between the ages of 49 and 93.

The beginnings of the crisis

While headlines announced the spread of a deadly new virus from China, Yucatán announced itself “COVID-free” for weeks.

But on Friday, March 13, Yucatán Health Secretary Mauricio Sauri Vivas announced at a press conference the first positive case of coronavirus in Yucatán. A 57-year-old woman, who was apparently infected in Spain, had returned to Mexico with no symptoms.

The unnamed traveler had landed in Cancun and traveled by road to Mérida. A few days later, she developed a fever and cough, sought a medical consultation and tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Exactly three weeks later, on Friday, April 3, health authorities announced the first two deaths from COVID-19 in Yucatán. They were a 36-year-old man and a 70-year-old British tourist who disembarked in Progreso from the Marella Explorer II cruise ship.

By June 22, when the positive cases and deaths increased day after day, the death of a 6-month-old baby, originally from Candelaria, Campeche, was reported and on Sept. 21 authorities reported the death of a baby from Mérida, barely a month old.

December came to a close with less alarming statistics, but also its share of jolts. Yucatán lost its beloved singer-songwriter Armando Manzanero, who just weeks earlier enjoyed seeing a museum in Mérida open in his name. His son admitted that the 85-year-old balladeer struggled to remain still in quarantine when tributes were planned miles away.

One shot of hope for 2021: The Pfizer vaccine against coronavirus has been approved and vials expected to arrive in Yucatán at the beginning of this month. Health-care workers and the elderly will be given priority when the first 4,000 doses arrive.

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