People wait outside IMSS Clinica 20 in Tijuana, Mexico for updates from staff. Only patients are allowed in, while visitors wait outside. (Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: Amid pandemic, efforts are from the Mexican people and not from the government

Coronavirus cases in the United States are finally curving downward, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, just past our southern border, the cases continue to rise, the Times reported.

The Mexican federal government appears to be minimizing the gravity of the pandemic. According to the New York Times, Mexican hospitals are misdiagnosing patients. The federal government has been massively underreporting cases, according to the New York Times

While other countries pour their funds into handling the crisis, leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made large budget cuts, rejected debt reliefs and encouraged the Mexican people to remain austere, the L.A. Times reported.

Of the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mexico has, by far, the lowest levels of testing, according to not-for-profit organization We Forum.

In March, López Obrador proceeded to hug and kiss his supporters despite recommendations from his health cabinet, according to Mexican publication El Universal. As Mexico falls deeper into a national crisis, he advocates for a return to normal and an end to social distancing.

The lack of funding has left Mexico lacking a medical workforce alongside medical equipment, according to El Universal. Hospitals across the country attribute what many call “dumb deaths” not to the virus itself, but to faulty equipment and a lack of adequate care, according to the New York Times.

While poverty and a lack of education may be exacerbating the issue, it is clear that the federal government is not adequately handling the virus.

Despite failures of the federal government, living in Tijuana has allowed me to witness the preventive measures that the Mexican people are taking.

In March, my family and I drove down from our home in Irvine, California to stay in Tijuana. Tijuana has the third highest number of cases in Mexico, and our friends in the States text us periodically, encouraging us to stay inside.

However, when we did go to the supermarket, I was surprised by the precautions that the Tijuana residents are taking. 

At our local grocery store, Florido, a man greeted us with a spray of hand sanitizer and a non-contact infrared thermometer. Another worker slid a freshly wiped cart toward us.

Once inside, I notice that everyone wears a mask. Even the bakery in the grocery store is different than before, with each piece of freshly-baked, mouthwatering pan dulce carefully wrapped in plastic.

Although almost 50% of Mexicans live in poverty, many are offering help to others during the pandemic, according to CONEVAL, a Mexican Social Development Organization.

In Rosarito, Mexico, Carolina Ramírez makes a living selling tortillas through Facebook. With the help of donations, she provides free meals to the elderly and unemployed, El Universal reported. 

Doctors and nurses have been targeted by the public and accused of spreading coronavirus. Some have been sprayed with bleach, according to the L.A. Times.

Unsafe working conditions are exacerbated by a lack of resources, and medical personnel account for one in five confirmed cases, the L.A. Times reported. Still, doctors and nurses continue to risk their lives and many of them have staged protests over a lack of funds and medical supplies, according to the Times.

All in all, the resolve and solidarity I see during this pandemic is inspiring and reassuring. The Mexican people’s efforts against coronavirus are just as strong as they are at my suburban Irvine home.

However, I am worried for the future of this country, which does not have the same funds, leadership or resources as the United States. In order to help its people, the federal government must change its approach to handling the virus.