Fears grow as coronavirus bears down on Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A hand-washing station and bright yellow signs warning of an area of “high infection” now greet the steady stream of hearses at the entrance to the San Nicolas Tolentino cemetery in a working-class neighborhood of this sprawling metropolis.

Funeral parlors and crematoriums in Iztapalapa, a borough of 2 million people, are working day and night to manage the surging number of dead in the capital’s hardest-hit corner.

Concern is growing that mixed messages about the seriousness of the pandemic from Mexico’s president and lax enforcement of social distancing are manifesting in what could be a frightening preview as infections begin to peak in Mexico City and its suburbs — where some 20 million people live in close quarters, jamming subways and buses, shopping in crowded markets and clustering around street food stalls.

On a recent morning, Rafael Hernández, who has sold tacos at the cemetery’s entrance for 40 years, said an average day before the pandemic might bring five or six hearses past his stand. “Today there have been 10 in an hour,” he said.

Rafael Herrera said in his 25 years working in the crematorium next door he’s never seen anything like it. They’ve had to add another shift, and funeral parlors are calling for crematoriums like his to run their ovens run 24 hours a day as Mexico City recommends and pays for the cremations of coronavirus victims.

“We can’t keep up,” Herrera said. “We’re working from 6 in the morning to midnight.”

Behind that surging demand are personal tragedies. People are falling sick, dying and being cremated often before families receive test results if they come at all.

Erika, a 42-year-old lawyer, lost her mother two weeks ago, her brother is on a ventilator and her husband was admitted to the hospital Monday complaining of difficulty breathing. Her mother, who was diabetic, died two days after starting to feel ill and was cremated before a coronavirus test was performed. Her death certificate lists “respiratory insufficiency, atypical pneumonia, likely COVID-19.”

Source: Associated Press



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