SAN LUIS POTOSÍ, Mexico – Jardín Guerrero, one of the many squares in the historic downtown district of San Luis Potosí, had the remnants of a hot summer day. Popsicle vendors known as paleteros and fruit seemed to be in every corner, with people gathering around the fountain and towering trees, seeking shade from the hot summer sun.
What was not lost in this context were the cubrebocas – Spanish for masks – which were in the hands or faces of almost everyone in the plaza, a reminder of Mexico’s continued battle to contain the novel Coronavirus-19.
Far from the shores, San Luis Potosí is known for its Spanish-style cathedrals throughout the city. Located in central Mexico, it is 250 miles northwest of the capital, Mexico City.
It is also one of the poorest states in Mexico. According to the University of San Luis Potosi, 37.6% of the population of San Luis Potosi lived in poverty in 2010. Of those 1.35 million, 380,000 lived in extreme poverty.
On May 10, the city officially achieved “green light status,” the lowest Covid risk status created by Mexico’s federal government, which uses a red, orange, yellow and green system to manage restrictions related to Covid.
The green light allows the resumption without restrictions of educational, professional, economic and social activities. However, according to federal guidelines, face masks, proper sanitation, and social distancing continue to be encouraged.
San Luis Potosi’s director of public health, Dr Fernando Hernandez Maldonado, said that since they have been in the green zone, the number of cases has not increased. “This is happening because the people are engaging in preventative measures,” he told NBC News.
According to the Mexican government, San Luis Potosí has had more than 5,615 deaths and 64,775 cases of Covid-19.
The management and containment of the containment of Covid-19 in Mexico has drawn attention to the accuracy of data from the Mexican Ministry of Health, according to residents.
At the start of the pandemic, private hospitals in the city were closed to Covid-19 patients, leaving those battling the virus in field hospitals set up by the Mexican Institute of Social Services (IMSS), a government agency that provides health and social services.
Patricia Rodríguez-Díaz, 47, a local school counselor whose job has been remote since the start of the pandemic, said the resources provided by IMSS, which were intended for workers, were not sufficient to provide care “, Adding,” on top of that, there was not enough staff to take care of the patients.
While San Luis Potosí has one of the top-ranked medical facilities in the country, Rodríguez-Diaz described what she believed to be a lack of transparency. “You will only hear through word of mouth that patients, doctors, nurses have started to get sick and die,” she said. “There was not even information sent to families on the condition of their sick relatives. “
Her husband, Jorge Alejandro Beraz, a law professor in the city, said there was “no confidence” in government information on the number of people infected or dead.
He described a social reluctance to question what the government said, “speaking in opposition to government is not appropriate, people feel like speaking in opposition to God”.
However, he and others said that while there were questions about how things were handled, “many are happy that things are opening up because San Luis is not a tourist area, and without government support, people needed financial resources, ”Beraz mentioned.
Bartender Rachel Solís, 22, from La Piqueria Mezcaleria said his workplace had been closed for months during the city’s red status.
She describes the neighborhood she lives in, outside of her downtown workplace, as quite poor. She said her neighbors, who were out of money and / or out of work, tried to get help the government was offering but were turned down.
Solís said government aid “was not well organized as it did not focus on the groups most in need of help”.
Gabriela Aranda, 19, and Elsa Almendarez, 18, are students who were distance learning from the start of the pandemic until June 11, with the school in person ending July 9.
Both said it was not uncommon to find people who did not believe in the pandemic, which helped people still come out at the height of infections.
“They didn’t believe the disease existed, so they kept going out,” Gabriela said, adding that she wished the government “was stricter and that they didn’t let so many people into the country. , which would have helped “.
The vaccine route
Most residents agree that vaccinations are the way to normalcy.
Mexico has an age-based system for accessing the vaccine. Now, people 40 years of age and over can register for the vaccine.
Maldonado said the health department has divided the city into 7 regions, each with a logistics coordinator responsible for overseeing vaccine distribution in communities.
“The journey to store vaccines and transport them has become a huge logistical issue,” said Maldonado, “but we are here, ready and have our staff ready… we are trying to make it easy for the public to get their vaccine.”
Rosa Pérez, a local Potosina who has remained in the city throughout the pandemic, said the online process was easy for her. “It was easy for me because I got into the application system quickly and made my appointment,” she says. “I left quickly, 45 minutes, everything is calm.”
While Pérez is fully vaccinated, she believes “that we must always be careful because the virus is always bad. The only reason things are opening up is because it is the government’s strategy. I think that’s why. We hope this is not so. But they [others] you have to be careful not to get sick – and get vaccinated. “
The students, Aranda and Almendarez, said when it is their turn, they plan to get it.
While Rodríguez-Díaz waits his turn to be vaccinated, her husband Jorge has been fully vaccinated. “As a teacher, I was given a Chinese single dose vaccine,” he said. “In San Luis, the 50-60 age group was Pfizer, but other places were AstraZeneca.”
Not all industries are a priority. As bartender Rachel Solis waits for her turn, she said the vaccine will allow her family to travel again. “It allows us to return to our lives. So yes, all of my family and friends are trying to get vaccinated. ”
As residents adjust to the more relaxed restrictions, the past year has been a time of reflection.
For Solís, the pandemic took her by surprise, but it was also “the opportunity to know me [herself] more and value things more, like my family – and travel.
His only wish is “for people to take care of themselves, because really who knows when it will end.”
Maldonado said he learned from seeing who was most susceptible to Covid-19. “I feel like as health workers we also need to take a break and look at our lifestyles in ways that reduce our own risks of getting infected,” he said, ” especially since the consequence can be death “.
Rodríguez-Diaz believes that the last year has been “a great lesson for all of us and continues to be an invitation for us to wake up and become more conscientious”.
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