Mexico reaches 1 million virus cases, nears 100,000 deaths

A healthcare worker tests a person for the new coronavirus inside a diagnostic tent in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Mexico City announced yesterday that restaurants and bars will have to close earlier after the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 rose to levels not seen since August. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme)
A healthcare worker tests a person for the new coronavirus inside a diagnostic tent in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Mexico City announced yesterday that restaurants and bars will have to close earlier after the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 rose to levels not seen since August. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MEXICO CITY – Mexico on Saturday topped 1 million registered coronavirus cases and nearly 100,000 test-confirmed deaths, though officials agree the number is probably much higher.

How did Mexico get here? By marching resolutely, even defiantly, against many internationally accepted practices in pandemic management, from face mask wearing, to lockdowns, testing and contact tracing.

What is more, officials in Mexico claim science is on their side. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell says any wider testing would be “a waste of time, effort and money.” Face masks, López-Gatell says, “are an auxiliary measure to prevent spreading the virus. They do not protect us, but they are useful for protecting other people.”

President Andres Manuel López Obrador almost never wears a mask, and López-Gatell only occasionally does.

Except science does not appear to be on their side. International experts have recommended mass testing, and say face masks protect both the wearer and other people.

“They say there is no evidence. No, excuse me, there is evidence,” said former health secretary Dr. José Narro. “In May, we already began to have empirical evidence and well-documented scientific studies began to appear stressing the importance of face masks and the need for testing.”

“What I can say is the (government) strategy did not have the necessary flexibility to adjust to the increasing amount of knowledge” about the disease, Narro said.

In part that has been a hallmark of López Obrador’s administration: never back down, never change course, and if challenged, double down.