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Mexico adds 1,000 deaths to official coronavirus toll, most in a single day

Cemetery workers and family members carry a coffin containing the body of a person who died of the coronavirus into a grave at the San Lorenzo Tezonco cemetery on Wednesday in Mexico City. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities added more than 1,000 people to the country's official coronavirus death toll on Wednesday in an outbreak that's proving far more vicious than the government had anticipated.

The 1,092 deaths did not occur in one day. Rather, many of the death reports had been delayed — a common event as records make their way to the central government. A graph displayed at a Health Ministry news conference on Wednesday evening showed that the total deaths on any single day had not exceeded 350, so far.

But the figure was a startling indication of how the outbreak here has intensified. It was only Monday that the official count of people who died after testing positive for covid-19 surpassed 10,000. Now it stands at 11,279 — a two-day leap of more than 10 percent. Officials acknowledge the real total is higher, since many victims die before they can be tested.

Mexico’s hospitals strain to treat coronavirus as officials say cases are peaking

Hugo López-Gatell, the senior Health Ministry official who has coordinated Mexico’s coronavirus campaign, told reporters the new figures had arrived from various hospitals, reflecting deaths from different dates. “Here we have a very old one, from some state, from March 25,” he said, pointing to the graph. It was not immediately clear why the tally might have jumped so dramatically in one day.

Mexican authorities have acknowledged that the virus is turning out to be more deadly than they had expected.

Mexico reported its first confirmed coronavirus cases on Feb. 28, a day before New York City. But while New York’s cases quickly skyrocketed, Mexico’s climbed more slowly. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last month that Mexico had “dominated” the pandemic.

Now the Mexican capital is at the epicenter of the country’s health crisis. Authorities have said new cases have reached a peak, with some signs of decline. Deaths, however, have stayed stubbornly high for days.

Mexico has followed a controversial policy of not seeking mass testing for the virus. Instead, authorities have predicted the pandemic’s course by watching cases at a sample set of medical centers around the country and constructing mathematical models. A lockdown was imposed on March 23, when officials said cases were starting to multiply.

Mexico begins to lift coronavirus lockdown, but officials say the country is still ‘in danger’

Critics have said the quarantine should have been imposed earlier, and more strictly.

Many factors have contributed to the rising death toll. Mexico suffers some of the hemisphere’s highest levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, complicating factors for covid-19 that are often linked to the diets of the poor.

In parts of the country, residents have started leaving home more in recent days.

The country’s hospitals have strained to treat coronavirus victims. The government has massively expanded hospital capacity in recent months and hasn’t run out of beds. But the system has long been plagued by underinvestment and a lack of doctors and nurses.

Mexico ended its nationwide lockdown last weekend, replacing it with a system that gives more leeway to states with fewer cases. Still, the vast majority of the country remains in “red,” the danger category, with most offices, businesses and schools closed.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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