As of 6:00 pm on July 6th, 2020, Guatemala has 23,972 cases of COVID-19, 981 fatalities and thousands of quarantined people who receive daily monitoring by the Ministry of Health.
The government has taken sweeping action to try to inhibit the spread of the virus — closing all borders, suspending national public transportation, and limiting all but essential services (hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, supermarkets, etc.) In-home quarantine has been mandated for all Guatemalans and foreigners who have arriving from abroad and anyone believed to have contact with confirmed cases.
Curfews have been in place since late March and were recently extended to include three days a week when people must remain in their homes.
While we expect that the number of cases will rise and community transmission may begin, we are reassured by the president Alejandro Giammattei’s actions to contain the virus and the government’s serious response. A hospital for COVID -19 patients was created in Villa Nueva, outside the capital city, another in an industrial park in Guatemala City, and plans are for three more in other departments, the closest to Santiago Atitlan will be in Santa Lucia Catzumalguapa on the coast highway.
Hospitalito Atitlán staff contacted the Ministry of Health with the first three suspicious COVID-19 cases, which were confirmed as positive. Officially there are 68 positive cases, six fatalities in Santiago Atitlán, some quarantined at home and others have been transferred to national hospitals.
Per the president’s orders, we have temporarily suspended outpatient clinic services and are only handling emergencies.
Workers at HA are donating 25% of their monthly salary to help keep HA staffed to meet whatever emergency arrives.
Entry is limited to a single door where all patients are screened for symptoms or risk of having COVID-19. Patients and family members with symptoms are taken to an isolation area to await the arrival of trained Ministry of Health workers. The Ministry of Health is taking over the care of any patient suspected to have the virus. Knowing the limited capacity of the Guatemalan National Health System, the Hospitalito is preparing in case the government becomes overwhelmed by the number of cases and begins to rely on private hospitals.
Community Projects Fieldwork
We have temporarily suspended community project fieldwork to avoid gatherings of vulnerable populations (such as diabetics), prevent potential spread, and protect staff. Our community projects team is working from home, focusing on administrative aspects of the projects such as development of educational materials/curricula and catching up with reports, data and statistics.
COVID-19 Community Health Information
It is essential that we make sure reputable information about COVID-19 is available in Santiago Atitlán’s local language of Tz’utujil. HA has created a five-video series of educational films about COVID-19 prevention that are transmitted on local cable stations and shared on social media.
Misinformation and rumors can be just as dangerous as the propagation of a disease.
It is of utmost importance that we remain well-informed and prepared in order to continue to work for the health and well-being of the population.
As elsewhere, the Hospitalito is facing its greatest economic challenge. Sixty-five (65) percent of our sustainability comes from the community through small payments for medical care. The Hospitalito has been forced to limit patient care, and we are very concerned about being able to retain staff to meet medical emergencies. We have created a COVID-19 Emergency Fund in order to raise funds to keep the Hospitalito open.