Jardín Guerrero, one of the many plazas in San Luis Potosí’s downtown historic district, had the remnants of any warm summer day. The popsicle vendors known as Paleteros and fruit sellers seemed to be in every corner, with people gathering around the fountain and towering trees, seeking shade from the warm summer sun.
What was not lost in this backdrop were the Cubrebocas — Spanish for masks — which were in the hands or faces of nearly everyone at the plaza, a reminder of Mexico’s continuing battle in containing the novel Coronavirus-19.
Far from the shorelines, San Luis Potosí is known for its Spanish-style cathedrals throughout the city. Located in central Mexico, it’s 250 miles northwest of the capital, Mexico City.
It’s also one of Mexico’s poorest states. According to the University of San Luis Potosí, 37.6 percent of San Luis Potosi’s population lived in poverty in 2010. Of that 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 Covid-related restrictions.
The green light allows for educational, labour, economic, and social activity to resume without restrictions. However, under 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 gone up. “This is happening because the population is engaging in preventative measures,” he told NBC News.
According to the Mexican government, San Luis Potosí has had over 5,615 deaths and 64,775 cases of Covid-19.
The handling and containing of Covid-19 containment in Mexico has drawn scrutiny on the accuracy of Mexico’s Health Ministry data, according to locals.
At the start of the pandemic private hospitals were closed in the city 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 social and health services.
Patricia Rodríguez-Díaz, 47, a local school counsellor whose work has been remote since the start of the pandemic said, the resources given by the IMSS, which were meant for workers, were not sufficient for providing care,” adding, “on top of this, there wasn’t enough staff to attend to the patients.”
While San Luis Potosí has one of the highest ranked medical facilities in the country, Rodríguez-Diaz described what she believed was a lack of transparency. “You would only hear, by word of mouth, that patients, doctors, nurses started to fall ill and pass away,” she said. “There was not even information passed along to families on how their sick relatives were doing.”
Her husband, Jorge Alejandro Beraz, a law professor in the city said there was “no confidence” in the government’s reporting of how many people were infected or who passed away.”