“We are way underestimating the magnitude of the epidemic,” he added.

In Tijuana, hospitals are already overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses across the country have held public protests against the lack of protective gear, and several hospitals along the border have suffered outbreaks of the virus among medical personnel. Federal officials have been scrambling to buy respirators, long after seeing the outbreaks grip China, Europe and the United States.

“There is a long tail for the curve, and the number of deaths does not drop to zero anytime in the near future,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, a professor in the department of biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. “The graph they are using is inconsistent with the shapes of the curve in other countries.”

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