The country should have been celebrating its nurses during the coronavirus pandemic, she said at a news conference in mid-April, but medical personnel were instead facing abuse and discrimination.
“These attacks have hit my profession hard,” Zepeda, the head of nursing for Mexico’s largest public hospital system, pleaded in a speech that drew widespread praise. “We are giving our lives in the hospitals.”
The pandemic now seems to have hit her personally as well. On Tuesday, International Nurses Day, Zepeda announced she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus herself.
She is now quarantining herself in line with the country’s social distancing rules, she wrote on Twitter.
“I live what my peers around the world are living,” Zepeda said, sending her fellow nurses a hug in solidarity — “even if it’s virtual and at a safe distance.”
At the Mexican government’s daily coronavirus news briefing, she tearfully recounted how nurses had been instructed not to wear their uniforms on the street to avoid the attacks.
Fears that the health workers would spread the virus had prompted attacks or instances of abuse against at least 21 nurses since the pandemic began, Zepeda said.
Her employer, the Social Security Institute, said on Twitter Tuesday that it was fully behind her — because Mexico needs her.
“We know that soon she will show that her greatest strength is never giving up,” the organization said, “and we await her return to direct the army of nurses who form the heart of the Social Security.”
The novel coronavirus has killed more than 100 hospital staffers in Mexico and infected between 8,500 and 15,000 medical personnel, authorities said.