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Mexico's COVID-19 test positivity rate is 50%: 'They're not trying hard enough'

Anything above 10% is considered alarming

Health workers carry a man on a stretcher to the zone 14 hospital of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, a clinic saturated with COVID-19 patients in the state of Sonora that continues on red alert, on Wednesday in Hermosillo, Mexico. (Photo by Jesus Javier E. López Norte Photo/Getty Images)

Half of those tested for COVID-19 in Mexico are testing positive, an alarmingly high number that reflects the extent to which the Mexican government does not have control of the outbreak, Bloomberg reported.

Mexico's positivity rate is as high as it is because the nation is not doing the kind of widespread testing now being done in the United States. Instead, like the U.S. was doing in the earlier days of the outbreak, Mexico is only testing the sickest people in order to conserve resources.

For context, the recent alarm over COVID-19 in Texas, which caused GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to pause reopening and close bars again, was triggered by the positivity rate creeping back up over 10% in recent days. The World Health Organization recommends getting that positivity rate down to 5% before reopening.

"You don't want it to be that easy to find cases," said Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, according to Bloomberg. "They're not trying hard enough."

From Bloomberg:

What troubles many health professionals is that neither Mexico nor Brazil, Latin America's powerhouses by economic might and population, have shown much willingness or ability to change the trend. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who advocates jobs over lock-downs, mingled with large crowds of supporters last weekend, even picking up a little girl for photos. (Neither one wore a mask.) And Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently wrapped up a weeks-long tour across Mexico.

Whether due to an inability or unwillingness to get a better handle on the scope of the outbreak, the situation in Mexico has implications for states like California, Arizona, and Texas, which are all seeing increases in cases — not just in large cities, but also in some border communities.

Mexico has had more than 230,000 reported COVID-19 cases and over 28,000 reported deaths. The seven-day moving average of daily COVID-19 deaths in Mexico is above 600.

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