COVID-19 Update Mazatlán, 17 March 2020


There have been so many unsubstantiated rumors going around about COVID-19 and so much erroneous information that today I spoke with Julio Birrueta, head of the 30-year-old Mazatlán Tourism Board and the Hotel Association, about how Mazatlán’s tourism sector is responding to the virus threats. As Canadians flock home and there are rumors of the US closing its border as well, I wanted to know the latest thinking, and I want us all to be better able to respond to the tourists wishing to visit Mazatlán with information rather than conjecture.

Julio confirmed with me that this evening the elderly woman being tested for COVID-19 here in Mazatlán came back negative. Therefore, to date we have no confirmed cases in Mazatlán and only one confirmed active case in Sinaloa (Los Mochis). Julio assured me that the measures put in place by hotels and restaurants for the H1N1 problem in 2009 have remained in place, ­and three weeks ago the hotel association revised and updated those procedures and trained staff and management in pandemic response procedures. “If necessary, we will cease operations and quarantine. We will do everything necessary to avoid the spread of the virus,” Julio stated. “Our priority is the safety of visitors, citizens and staff.”

“If necessary, we will cease operations and quarantine. We will do everything necessary to avoid the spread of the virus.”

By now most of our readers know that private schools in Mazatlán have canceled classes from today, Tuesday; public schools have cancelled classes from next week until April 20, expanding the normal two week spring break to four. Not wanting to wait, many families are already keeping their children home. ISIC—the Sinaloa Institute of Culture, and Cultura Mazatlán have canceled events through April 20th, in addition to closing the Art Museum and the Municipal School of the Arts. The municipal sports authority (IMDEM) has also cancelled its events and closed its venues through April 20.

Just today the municipality installed a “Mazatlán Health Advisory Board,” and tomorrow, Wednesday March 18th, business leaders including the hotel and restaurant associations will meet with the ayuntamiento—city leaders—to make decisions about how to proceed to protect Mazatlán from the pandemic’s spread. They are relying heavily on learnings from China, Spain and Italy.

Santiago Reyes, epidemiologist of the 6th Sanitary District, today proposed the closure of diverse establishments including pre-schools and daycares, gyms, nightclubs, the aquarium and any events in which massive groups gather, including upcoming scheduled concerts. Birrueta confirmed to me that cancellations will no doubt include the Somos Musiq Fest, the Banda MS concert and the carnaval and fair scheduled for Holy Week. He also indicated that any attempt at a second moto-week will be denied  permits and met with strict enforcement of guidelines and policies—though Birrueta said that no one can prevent bikers from arriving.

Restaurants and hotels have already put in place the following preventive measures:

  • Hand gel at reception and in restaurants
  • Frequent cleaning of flat surfaces
  • Trash cans outside bathrooms so visitors can open doors with a paper towel and throw the towel away away

Mazatlán’s Mayor Guillermo Benitez Torres explained that “we are going to suggest that restaurants work with certain necessary precautionary measures while providing food to people, and ask bars, casinos, theaters, night clubs, dance clubs and music venues to have solidarity and close down to prevent us having to mandate them to do so.”

Birrueta told me that at least three major hotels including the Hotel Playa Mazatlán and the Riu have had doctors meet with all new check-ins for at least a week. Some guests have been returned home and others have been directed to medical care. He tells me that while some Mexican families are taking the school closures as an extended vacation, others understand the severity of the health threat and will stay home. He believes that over the next week Mexicans and Mazatlecos will increasingly buckle down and self-quarantine.

Tourism Mazatlán is predicting a Semana Santa at about 60% of normal numbers. To ensure safety, they are implementing a “Responsible Tourist” program that will be announced next week. People will be asked:

  • To stay at least two meters away from others at all times, including from other parties on the beach
  • To wash their hands frequently
  • To use a paper towel to open bathroom doors

I know we’ll hear more after the big meeting tomorrow, and I’m told there will be many new announcements in the upcoming days and weeks. In the meantime, please wash your hands frequently. While you’re at it, clean your nose, eyes, ears and throat frequently, too. Keep door handles, cell phones and car interiors wiped clean. Get your neighborhood or condominium association to put in place sanitary practices for the sake of residents and staff. Reach out to neighbors and friends who may appreciate extra assistance. Buy what you need but don’t hoard. Together we’ve got this! Stay healthy, everyone.

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

19 thoughts on “COVID-19 Update Mazatlán, 17 March 2020

  1. Pingback: 5C's Que Pasa » San Carlos to Quartzsite

  2. Great post. I was feeling pretty good until I got to the “60%” Semana Santa number. A Responsible Tourist program won’t do it. IMHO, that’s just asking for Mazatlán to get its first patient zero. Not sure what to do about it, as the economic effects are real. At the very least, the government could be more aggressive with its messaging. A lot of people, both Mexican and foreign, don’t seem to be taking this seriously.

    • Yes, the national government could do so much more. We can self-quarantine. So many expats out partying for St Pat’s yesterday rather than setting an example. And we can hope for more stringent travel measures from the meeting today. I spoke with the head of tourism, after all. It’s devastating on the economies everywhere. Swine flu really threw MZT for a loop, which at least gives us recent experience.

      • So many people don’t believe it is a serious problem still. Many older folks, the group of people that will be hit the hardest, aren’t taking this seriously. And then, there are the younger generation who won’t be hit as hard if they do contract the bug. They don’t seem to care. One I know of thinks this is a great way to reduce the number of “boomers”. Go figure, eh? Kind of funny to hear that, and yet, a very stupid statement. Economies are taking a good gut punch. I wish good health to everyone. I wish the best to all in Mazatlan, and Mexico. The shit storm hasn’t hit there yet, and I believe it will get very ugly down there. It is being taken extremely seriously here in Canada, but we are just getting hit now. We need MUCH more testing down…everywhere.

      • Yes, we are most definitely fighting an uphill battle with the culture of Mexico, where people are accustomed to hardship and to joking, singing and dancing in the face of even death. It’s a huge cultural difference very difficult for those of us not from here to understand. I do not think it means they don’t take it seriously. But, we do need to stimulate quicker action, for sure. In that sense I believe we expats can be models. I’d love to see more of us self-isolating and fewer of us out partying, for example. The storm will hit, we know that. God help us be as prepared as possible. Be well and safe!

    • Thank you for this link, Steven. It’s new information for me and I appreciate it. Do you know the people who run this site? I like it and find it somewhat helpful. What does concern me is that it would seem to promote rumors, too, e.g., the link to a Facebook post from a young woman. If people realize every tool has strengths and weaknesses, this would seem a helpful resource. Would appreciate you sharing what you know/think. Thanks!

  3. I saw a comment that with all the people in Mazatlan for Carnaval and there are no positives for the virus, it’s not here! Garbage! There were people in Mazatlan from all over so how does anyone track that? It’s here and people are not taking it seriously.

    • Linda, I’ll agree that people need to take it much more seriously, which seems, sadly, to not happen till it’s too late, if we look at events worldwide. If people were infected during Carnaval we would now know about it due to the incubation period. There has not been an outbreak of pneumonia in town, thank the Lord. I guess the best we can do right now is be responsible, self-isolate, and pray that what you say is not true.

      • All due respect, Dianne, but thank the Lord? This is the part that truly baffles me. If He prevented an outbreak of the virus there, but then didn’t prevent it from happening in the other locations around the world, what did they do wrong that he didn’t bless them from this virus? Just seems totally hypocritical, and nasty, for God to do that, doesn’t it?

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