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Mexico City mayor resists call for lockdown as hospitals hit 75 percent occupancy

Mexico City mayor resists call for lockdown as hospitals hit 75 percent occupancy
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The mayor of Mexico City is resisting calls for a COVID-19-related lockdown in the city as hospitals are filled to 75 percent occupancy this week.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has avoided directing a coronavirus shutdown, instead encouraging residents to stay inside as the city has set a record for hospital bed occupancy every day this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

Hospitalizations have risen above its spring levels. Before this week, a record of 4,553 hospitalizations occurred on May 22, which was broken again on Dec. 12. The city reported 4,834 hospital beds in use on Tuesday.

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A shutdown would automatically occur if Sheinbaum moved the city to a red zone from an orange zone. But the zones are determined partly by the percentage of hospital beds occupied, prompting the city to add 260 more beds to delay a lockdown, Bloomberg News reported. 

The mayor also announced that the city is conducting 20,000 rapid tests every day in the hopes of identifying cases quicker.

“Her message is confusing -- Is it orange? Is it red? You can go outside but it’s better to stay home -- this is leading people to make bad decisions,” former health minister Salomon Chertorivski said in a radio interview, according to Bloomberg News. 

Some experts suspect Sheinbaum is appeasing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has previously argued to keep the economy running amid the pandemic.

“We’re doing all we can to avoid returning to the painful situation of shutting down,” Sheinbaum said Tuesday.

When she was asked if she was following López Obrador’s instructions to keep the city open, Sheinbaum responded, “The city makes its own decisions. This time of the year is very important in economic terms for the wellbeing of many families,” according to Bloomberg News. 

Two states in Mexico are currently red, Baja California and Zacatecas, while most of the rest are considered orange. Mexico has confirmed 115,769 COVID-19 deaths, the fourth-most of any country, and more than 1.2 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Mexico City remains the epicenter, having about 20 percent of all of Mexico’s cases and about 19,000 deaths, according to Bloomberg News. While the holiday shopping season continues, several city residents are waiting in lines around the block to refill oxygen tanks for loved ones.