Mexico City exhales as COVID-19 infections fall

MEXICO CITY — More than three months after COVID-19 infections peaked in Mexico City, the local government announced Friday that the public hospital network dedicated to fighting the disease is experiencing its lowest rate occupancy of the pandemic.

One year after the country instituted a color-coded alert system for the pandemic, the capital for the first time moved from orange to yellow, another step down from the top category, red.

City officials placed occupancy rate in public hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 care at 16%, a welcome change from January, when a surge following the holiday season pushed some hospitals to their limits.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said there was no scientific certainty to say why Mexico City finds it in much better place, but she listed a half dozen possible factors including greater discipline by citizens, expanded testing, a vaccination campaign, improved weather and the fact that many people in the city have already been infected.

Sheinbaum said 84% of the capital’s senior citizens have been vaccinated and the campaign recently moved to the 50 to 59 age group.

The practical changes in the lowering of the alert level are minimal. Among them, the limits on capacity at businesses and movie theaters will increase somewhat, but remain below 50%.

There have been more than 42,000 test-confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the city of 9 million, though due to the limited availability of testing the real number is believed to be much higher.