Mexican casket makers face demand for caskets and black market in pandemic, Mexico City – Shutterstock
Hospitals in southern California have reported a spike in coronavirus admissions as people flee the growing crisis over the border in Mexico.
San Diego and a number of frontier towns are bracing for a larger exodus of dual American-Mexican citizens should the outbreak in Mexico worsen.
Over the past few weeks, cases have increased dramatically in National City, Chula Vista and El Cajon counties, according to new data.
Hospital Chula Vista said it is already near capacity for patients critically ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. While Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista now has roughly 30 to 35 beds occupied by coronavirus patients on any given day, the most it can handle.
“I think we are concerned with border cities and are starting to see some activity related to what might be happening in Mexico,” Scott Evans, CEO of Sharp’s Grossmont, which runs Hospital Chula Vista, told local KPBS news network. “There are lots of people that go back and forth between Mexico and the United States even for work. That remains a concern for us.”
A worker wearing a protective mask sorts plastic at the United Plastic Bag Recyclers (Ruboplast) manufacturing facility in Ecatepec, Mexico State, Mexico – Bloomberg
The US has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, however California – which has for months been under a strict shelter-in-place order – has so far escaped the worst.
There are fears it could see a surge as its southern neighbour’s crisis deepens.
As of Tuesday, reported coronavirus cases in Mexico totalled about 35,000, with 3,465 deaths. The true numbers are almost certainly significantly higher due to the low level of testing nationwide, however.
Only one in 1,000 people in Mexico – which has a population of 125 million – have been tested for the virus, making it one of the lowest rates among developing countries.
A Sky News investigation found that the official figures are likely undercounting the actual mortality rate by a factor of at least five.
It reported seeing morgues and storage rooms full of bodies, while crematoriums were struggling to keep up.
The Mexican government has been accused of underreporting the number of cases as it attempts to downplay the problem.
It has also failed to introduce measures to help flatten the curve, with open air markets and businesses operating normally in its biggest cities, and virtually no social distancing.
Gravediggers carry the casket of a person who died from the coronavirus at Municipal Cemetery No. 13 in Tijuana, Mexico – Bloomberg
President Donald Trump has suspended non-essential travel across the US land borders with Canada and Mexico, saying the restrictions are necessary to “protect America”.
US officials have predicted a number of scenarios that could trigger a flood of people trying to cross the southern border, including an improvement in the US economy and where Mexico fails to sufficiently contain its outbreak.
Dr Juan Tovar, an emergency physician and chief operating executive for Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, said most of those they have seen have dual citizenship or dual residence who habitually cross back and forth, rather than Mexicans coming into the US illegally.
Many are coming through Tijuana, one of Mexico’s cities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare sent a letter to the Trump administration in late April that called for medical checks at the border and mandatory quarantine for those suspected to be infected with coronavirus.
“This is not an immigration issue for us, we do not want the border closed,” Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health, told Reuters. “I think that would be a disaster for both countries. But we are concerned about the large number of people coming across.
“There are no health checks at all going in either direction,” he said.