Sonora State Health Secretary Enrique Clausen Iberri speaks during an online videoconference on Tuesday evening.

A woman in "very serious" condition at the Hospital General in Nogales, Sonora has tested positive for COVID-19, the state health director said.

The 65-year-old patient from the town of Saric, approximately 45 miles southwest of Nogales, is breathing with the help of a ventilator, Sonora Health Secretary Enrique Clausen Iberri said during a videoconference Tuesday evening.

Clausen said the woman returned home from a trip to Arizona on March 16. Six days later, she began experiencing fever, cough, headache and overall malaise. When she began having trouble breathing, she was hospitalized in Nogales, Sonora on March 28.

He said her positive test was confirmed on Tuesday, March 31.

The woman had four “direct” contacts, Clausen said, none of whom are currently showing symptoms, and authorities are continuing to investigate other contacts.

The patient has a history of high blood pressure, he said.

The case is the first confirmed COVID-19 infection in the area of Nogales, Sonora on the Mexican side of the border. There have been three confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County.

In the state of Sonora, there have been 18 confirmed cases since March 16, Clausen said: eight in Hermosillo, four in Cajeme (Ciudad Obregon), two each in Guaymas and Navojoa, and one each in San Luis Rio Colorado and Saric.

In 14 of the cases, the people have experienced mild symptoms, and two of those have recovered, Clausen said. Four other people are currently hospitalized, with two in serious condition. There have been no confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Sonora.

The average age of the 18 people confirmed to have the disease is 44.4 years. Eleven are women and seven are men.

In all, 259 people have been tested in the state, with 18 tests coming back positive, 118 negative and 123 still pending, Clausen said.

Meanwhile in Arizona, data released Wednesday morning by the state Department of Health Services showed 1,413 confirmed infections and 29 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state.

Nationwide, there were nearly 190,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the United States, compared to 1,215 confirmed cases and 29 deaths in Mexico.

The discrepancy in confirmed infection rates between the two countries led a group of concerned citizens to block the southbound vehicle lanes at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales on March 25, demanding that their government do more to screen people entering Mexico from the United States for the virus.

Since then, Mexican health officials, backed by National Guard soldiers, have started taking the temperatures of people entering the county through the Nogales ports of entry. However, Mexico has not implemented formal restrictions on people crossing its northern border like those implemented March 21 by the United States on people entering the country from ports of entry with Mexico.

A story published Monday by the Washington Post, “Coronavirus on the border: Why Mexico has so few cases compared with the U.S.,” examined the discrepancy in infection rates between the two countries, especially between neighboring states on the Southwest border. It noted that the virus reached Mexico about a month after it appeared in the United States, and that the Mexican government has done far less testing. “We will have it, but we’re at a different moment in the epidemic,” one infectious disease specialist told the Post.

The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has come under fire for moving slowly to enact preventative measures to contain the spread of the virus in Mexico, and the president himself has shrugged off concerns while continuing to make public appearances that included exchanging hugs and handshakes with supporters.

As the Associated Press reported Tuesday in a story headlined "Too little, too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay," the federal government has finally started to take tougher measures, which include banning non-essential work and prohibiting large gatherings. The mayor of Mexico City and governors of states including Sonora had moved more quickly to restrict public activity and impress upon their citizens the need to stay at home.

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