REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – Hidalgo County, Texas is reporting 261 cases of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) as of April 20, 2020, while neighboring Cameron County is reporting 298. 

The State of Texas is at 19,459 cases as a comparison. The United States as of the same date is reporting 746, 625 COVID-19 cases to date.

Across the Rio Grande from the Rio Grande Valley, the entire State of Tamaulipas is reporting 117 cases, while Mexico has confirmed 8,261 COVID-19 cases. 

Mexico City is claiming 2,229 cases, The State of Mexico 786, Baja California 610, and Sinaloa 413. Official figures are reported daily in a news conference by Dr Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the Under Secretary of Health.

As in the United States, reported cases and the methodologies for detection, diagnostics and reporting often come under scrutiny and create tensions between the federal government, state governments, the media and the business community. 

This past week, comedian Eugenio Derbez posted a video pleading for help in Tijuana which he claimed was overrun by COVID-19 cases, so many in fact that health care workers in public hospitals were getting sick in significant numbers as they battled without personal protection equipment (PPE), medications or ventilators. 

Derbez’s accusations were denied by Dr. Desiree Sagarnaga, a federal representative to the public health system, characterized the comedian’s comments as “fake news.” However, the State’s Governor, Jaime Bonilla weighed in mostly in support of Derbez.

“Doctors from the Social Security Hospital and the General Hospital of Tijuana are dropping like flies because the doctors were not given personal protection equipment,’’ said the governor.

Azteca de Noticias (Aztec News) weighed in, creating more controversy when anchor Javier de la Torre said that Lopez-Gatell’s COVID-19 case number reports were not based on reality and that the public “should just ignore his numbers and recommendations.”

Lopez-Gatell has publicly stated that the number of actual cases of the disease was probably 8-9 times more than the reported numbers.

In Nicaragua the World Health Organization intermittently stops publishing the number of cases that come from the government of that Central American country as unreliable and unrealistic. Today the country is reporting only ten cases. In contrast Panamá has reported 4,467, neighboring Costa Rica 660, Honduras 477, Guatemala 289, El Salvador 218. Even tiny Belize with a total population of 400,000 has reported 18 cases to date.

Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, who had not appeared publicly in over a month appeared at a press conference declaring that the pandemic was “a sign from God…..transnational forces just want to take control of the planet, that is a sin and the Lord wants to send us a message.”

The government does not have a COVID -19 protocol in place, unlike all its neighbors. Gustavo Reyes Torres, a trucker from El Salvador who must pass through the country to transport goods from Panama to his country had this to say about Nicaragua and its condition relevant to COVID-19:

“It is obvious that the disease is present in Nicaragua even though the government denies it. People do not listen to Ortega anymore. They have more respect for Bukele,” declared the driver from El Salvador. Nayib Bukele is the president of El Salvador who has instituted one of the most aggressive COVID-19 protocols in the world.

Reyes went on to say that Costa Rica had basically closed its borders to Nicaragua except for commercial traffic and that to cross the borders of every other Central American country, that drivers had to submit to a temperature check with a digital thermometer:

“When you cross into Nicaragua, the border guards put their hand on your forehead to check your temperature’’, he quipped. “They are a bit behind the times.”

On a Facebook page entitled  “Les Rovira Du Monde,” a family name website of which this reporter is a member, the citizens of various countries spoke to the pandemic and their point of view in their respective countries. From Costa Rica, Marissa Nietzen Rovira spoke of the 660 cases reported in the country and five deaths:

“Sadly we had another death today but many people have recovered,” she said pointing to 112 recoveries.

In Sogamoso, Colombia some three hours from the capital of Bogota, Rosana Rovira Vega, a health care provider in her country, made the following commentary:

“In Colombia they suspended classes on March 9, when the first case was reported. To date we have approximately 3500 cases. The use of face masks is mandatory to go outside. Non-essential businesses are closed. Only food stores and pharmacies are allowed. Public places are closed. Restaurants are operating from home. Protocols for health care providers are very strict. Masks, gowns, a hat, and gloves are mandatory. We are provided a uniform on arrival and it must be washed there and then when we leave. Suspicious patients are required to be masked with N-95 masks, and wear boot covers. For the transfer of patients an isolation chamber has been created which must be completely disinfected as the stretchers pass through.”

According to Cristina Rovira from Uruguay:

“In Uruguay we have approximately 500 infected patients and 11 deaths. Our quarantine is not obligatory but classes have been suspended as well as events and gatherings, since March 13. Some activities are slowly and carefully being organized. We have a new government since March 1, which is both responsible and informed regarding the pandemic.”

Jeanette Rovira Formoso also from Uruguay, added:

“President Luis Lacalle Pou entered on March 1, and then after 13 days the pandemic surged,” indicating that the president and his staff had to respond very quickly.

In Ponce Puerto Rico, Salvador F Rovira Rodriguez, who operates a consultant firm for the health industry of the island, produces videos showing the painstaking steps the company takes and recommends to all government contractors.

“So far the government is doing the things it needs to do with the resources that it has. The next few days are going to be crucial,” says the businessman in a U.S. territory that has reported 780 cases and 42 deaths. More than 1300 tests results are pending 900 police officers have been placed in isolation. Only 7,700 people have been tested on an island of 3.2 million people, according to the Associated Press. Governor Wanda Vasquez announced last Saturday that the territory will remain on lockdown until May 3.

Editor’s Note: To contact the Rio Grande Guardian’s roving reporter, Bill Rovira, email: [email protected].

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