Massive Weddings in Mexico Are Unchecked Superspreader Events
(Bloomberg) -- The groom’s mother was rushed to the hospital unable to breathe. Other guests were ill for days. The young couple, truth be told, spent part of their honeymoon sick in bed. But all agreed: it was a great wedding. (“Those centerpieces!”)
It’s not that nothing has changed. The waiters are masked and party favors include hand sanitizers. But massive weddings in Mexico -- one of the world’s deadliest viral hotspots -- have resumed and are proceeding like it’s 2019, with hugging, singing and dancing, turning holy matrimony into a super-spreader event.
In a country with the fourth highest Covid-19 death rate in the world, lifestyle magazines are again splashing elated brides and grooms on their covers. After one 700-person affair in the state of Coahuila last month, health authorities confirmed at least 90 infections.
The weddings are a stark reminder that the country’s pandemic restrictions have served mostly as suggestions. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stood out globally as one of the leaders least willing to impose quarantine or preach the value of masks and distancing, eager to return to normal life.
“It’s the Mexican mentality of ‘nothing’s going to happen,” said Alejandro, whose September wedding led 20 guests to catch the virus, including his mom, who was hospitalized but is now recovering.
Alejandro’s date had been set for months. They considered changing it but, “Everyone told us to do it, no one seemed to care,” he said, asking to withhold his last name.
Cases Still Rising
Cases in Mexico are still rising. Like much of Latin America, which has been slammed by the virus, Mexico’s caseload never really fell over the summer the way it did in other parts of the world. Weary of returning to stay-at-home measures that disable the economy, the government has let states issue their own restrictions based on a four-tier system which sets limits -- seldom enforced -- on the size of gatherings.
Whatever stage their state is in, Mexicans seem to want to party.
The border state of Chihuahua returned to red in late October after a spike in cases. One town received 1,200 complaints in a single weekend related to loud house parties, the state’s health minister, Eduardo Fernandez, said in a radio interview last week.
“We’re seeing weddings and massive events that are practically impossible to control,” he said. The state imposed one of the strictest curfews in the country.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who recently tested positive for the virus, has warned that increases in both cases and hospitalizations may lead to further restrictions.
“I have 70 sick patients right now from a single wedding because, by the second tequila, all masks come off,” said Francisco Moreno, head of internal medicine at ABC Medical Center in Mexico City.
‘People Are Tired’
“People are tired, and it’s like they’ve been chained to a post for months so as soon as they were able to, everyone went out running and now we’re seeing weddings with 300, 400 people. It’s out of control,” Moreno said.
His hospital is at capacity and he told of two patients in recent weeks who died on the sidewalk because they couldn’t be admitted. He said the renewal of partying in mid-September has caused the new overload.
In Baja California’s town of Mexicali, an actor’s 300-guest wedding in early October resulted in more than 100 infections, health authorities said. The actor’s own Instagram feed shows unmasked guests cheering the couple’s entrance to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” as a flurry of sparklers lit the background.
Back in Mexico City, Alejandro says he’d feel different about his wedding -- and the interview -- if his mom hadn’t made it.
“When we started hearing about people getting sick from attending our wedding, we obviously felt guilty,” said Alejandro. “But you try to tell yourself that the people who were there knew the risks, and they chose to go. It’s a weird mix of feelings.”
In explaining his guests’ motives, he cited a line attributed to Mexican revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, though its origin is unknown: “I’d rather die standing than live kneeling.”
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