As Mexico sees its COVID-19 death toll reaches over 52,000, the country is fighting a fear of  hospitals that is preventing many residents from seeking treatment. 

Trailing only the U.S. and Brazil in total COVID-19 deaths, Mexico has been challenged by the belief of its citizens that hospitals are death traps where you go to die and nothing else, causing the coronavirus to spread throughout families and communities, The New York Times reported.

As Mexicans look to avoid the hospital at all cost, the consequences are severe as many doctors can do little to treat COVID-19 patients that have waited too long to seek treatment, the Times said.

The Times reported that residents in Ecatepec, a municipality outside Mexico City, stormed a hospital where family members were staying in May and filmed the conditions inside.

“I’d rather stay home and die there.” José Eduardo said after seeing the videos. 

“A lot of what is happening is because of how families are handling it,” José Juan Serralde, a resident of Mexico City told the Associated Press. Many people “don’t accept what is happening and don’t want to accept that they are dying of COVID.”

Over the course of a month Serralde’s parents died, as well as his aunt, while he, his wife and his daughters fell ill from the virus, the AP reported.

“The family crypt filled up in less than a month,” Serralde said.

Another result of avoidng treatment has been coronavirus numbers far higher than are reported as some never get tested before their death., government officials have acknowledged.

Mexico has over 480,000 positive coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S., in comparison, has over 5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and nearly 163,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the university.

Mexican Red Cross' paramedics rush a patient suspected of being infected with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus into Venados General Hospital, in Mexico City Mexican Red Cross' paramedics rush a patient suspected of being infected with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus into Venados General Hospital, in Mexico City Photo: AFP / PEDRO PARDO