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Mexico flies home nationals quarantined by the Chinese

Thousands doff protective masks; others fearful

People crowded a subway station yesterday in Mexico City. The city came back to life as businesses and restaurants reopened. People crowded a subway station yesterday in Mexico City. The city came back to life as businesses and restaurants reopened. (Alfredo Estrella/ AFP/ Getty Images)
By Juan Carlos Llorca and Lisa J. Adams
Associated Press / May 7, 2009
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MEXICO CITY - Dozens of Mexicans quarantined in China despite having no swine flu symptoms arrived home yesterday on a government-chartered jet, some complaining of humiliation and discrimination by the Chinese. But as Mexicans emerged from their five-day swine flu shutdown, the death toll rose and many remained fearful.

Mexico City showed more of its usual ebullience during a raucous morning rush hour. Thousands of newspaper vendors, panhandlers, and salesmen hawking trinkets dropped their protective masks and added to the familiar din of truck horns and street music. Cafes accepted sitting customers, and many corporate offices reopened.

Construction worker Roberto Reyes, 36, walked through the capital's Chapultepec subway station without a protective mask.

"The news says all of this is over, so I got rid of my mask, and a lot of people are doing the same in the streets," he said.

Many others worried that Mexico was letting its guard down too quickly, especially with high schools and universities reopening today, and primary schools reopening next week.

Mexico City's government extended indefinitely its closures of bars, discos, gymnasiums, movie theaters and dance halls. Sports arenas in the capital can reopen, but only at half capacity.

Mexico's shutdown was designed to reduce the spread of the virus at its epicenter, and deaths did slow as the country mobilized an aggressive public health response to the epidemic that has gone on to sicken nearly 1,900 people in 24 countries.

But the virus keeps setting off more health alarms. A pregnant 33-year-old American, a teacher in Texas who fell into a coma and had her baby delivered by Cesarean section, became the first US resident to die of swine flu. Mexico announced a jump in the confirmed death toll yesterday to 42 after testing backlogged cases and confirmed 1,070 more cases.

Two of those deaths were from Tuesday, and there have been six since May 1. While the rate of new cases and hospitalizations has declined, epidemiologists said the virus has spread throughout Mexico. "We have seen a tendency [of the outbreak] to diminish, but not disappear," Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said.

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