The raise and the fall of a rockstar epidemiologist in Mexico

The raise and the fall of a rockstar epidemiologist in Mexico

Author: Gabriela Frias Villegas – Nuclear Sciences Institute, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

The first case of Covid-19 was detected in Mexico the 27th of February of 2020. From that moment on, the person in charge of the management and communication of the health emergency has been Hugo López Gatell, Subsecretary of Prevention and Promotion of Health in Mexico, an epidemiologist and researcher. Everyday, he gave a talk in national TV about the development of the pandemic of Covid-19 in Mexico. During the first few months of the pandemic, he was considered a hero, and he became a media rockstar with high credibility.

More than a year later, the pandemic in Mexico has not ceased. Since the first confirmed case, there have 190 thousand deaths and Mexico became the third country in the world with the most deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, nowadays people strongly questioned Gatell’s strategy, in particular his refusal to recognize that the use of masks is important to control the raise of the disease among Mexican population. Also, him and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have communicated contradictory and even pseudo scientific information, which has caused misunderstandings resulted in an enormous amount of human losts.

In this paper I would like to talk about the raise of Lopez Gatell as a scientist rockstar, and analyze his covid-19 strategy in three moments of time: a month after the first case, six months after the first case and a year after the first case, using as sources the surveys presented by the newspaper El Financiero, the recordings of his daily talks and the media coverage of three Mexican newspapers: El Universal, El Reforma, and La Jornada. With this analysis I would like to show that the communication strategy of the science of Covid in Mexico has been inconsistent and confusing. Moreover, it has caused Gatells credibility to fall.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation