Oxygen Refill Offer Draws Crowds

Families are struggling to fill tanks for patients in Mexico City
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 1, 2021 2:45 PM CST
Families Struggle to Get Oxygen for Patients
Ricardo Ledesma Carrasco prepares a newly refilled oxygen tank Thursday for his father Juan Jose Ledesma, 68, left, who is being treated for COVID-19 at home.   (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

On New Year's Day, dozens of people stood in line with empty oxygen tanks in one of Mexico City’s hardest-hit boroughs to take advantage of a city offer of free oxygen refills for COVID-19 patients. Jorge Infante took his place in line at 8am with three tanks he wanted to fill for sick relatives. He had learned about the offer, only in its third day Friday, via Facebook. The demand for oxygen as the virus spreads through the capital of 9 million residents has driven prices up and made lines long, the AP reports. Infante said that by getting his three tanks filled for free, his family would save about $45 per day. Iztapalapa, the capital's largest borough and one of the ones hit hardest by the pandemic, is a sprawling area of low resources. "The economic conditions are not first world," said Carlos Morales, Iztapalapa’s health director. "That means that people are suffering to get tanks."

Elsewhere in the capital, some residents spent New Year’s Eve in lines that snaked down a street and around a corner, waiting to refill oxygen canisters for relatives suffering from COVID-19. The city has seen a surge in coronavirus infections, and hospitals are 87% occupied, straining oxygen supplies. A retiree who tested positive said he has to stay home because there's no room in his local hospital. His son goes out three or four times a day to try to find oxygen for him. Blanca Nina Méndez Rojas waited in line Thursday to refill a tank for her brother, who was recently discharged from a public hospital after contracting COVID-19. "We just left him disconnected (from oxygen), so he has to stay completely reclined so he won't get agitated or have a problem, until we return with the tank,” Méndez Rojas said, noting that a refill that cost $3.50 two weeks ago now costs $7.50.

(Read more Mexico City stories.)

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