Border city mayor asks Mexico to ban entry by US citizens as COVID-19 cases surge
JUÁREZ, Mexico - The Mayor of Juárez urged the Mexican government for help, sought medical care and considered banning US citizens from crossing the border.
As in El Paso, Texas, the state of Chihuahua, with its epicenter in Juárez, is growing new cases of COVID-19, killing 1,100 people over the weekend.
Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada urges the Mexican government to consider temporarily banning U.S. citizens from non-essential travel across the border as COVID-19 flares up in the area, reports the El Paso Times, part of the USA is TODAY Network.
Travel by US citizens to "indiscriminate border crossings in Ciudad Juarez is actively contributing to the spread of the virus," Cabada said Friday in a letter to Roberto Velasco Alvarez, director of North America at the Mexican Secretariat for Foreign Relations.
The US has restricted unnecessary Mexican tourist travel across the land border since March 21, but US citizens can still travel to Mexico.
Closing US Borders: What It Means to Travelers
In a separate open letter to the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Cabada also made an "urgent plea" for medical care in hospitals over the weekend.
Juarez hospitals require beds, ventilators, oxygen tanks and medication, as well as personal protective equipment for medical workers, Cabada said in the letter.
Cabada himself is being hospitalized after testing positive for the virus a second time.
A mobile tented hospital will be set up in front of a Juárez hospital, state health authorities said.
364 new infections have been registered in the state of Chihuahua in the past 24 hours, health officials said on Sunday.
"Tell me where there isn't an outbreak? Right now in Chihuahua we are in 'red' (public health alert), an intense red. Everywhere you put your finger on a map there is an outbreak," said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, health director for the northern region of Chihuahua state, responded in a virtual press conference Monday to a question about an outbreak at a maquiladora industrial plant.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 11,800 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Juárez. However, the actual numbers are likely to be much higher due to limited testing volumes.
19-year-old Esly Jaquez traveled to El Paso on her laser visa or border crossing card. It hasn't exceeded since the U.S. government's non-essential travel restrictions went into effect in March.
Still, she said closing the border on the Mexican side was not the answer. Both sides need to better control the pandemic, she said.
"Just like you have to take precautions, we have to take precautions," she said, waiting for a ride at the Plaza Victoria shopping center in Juarez. "Very few people followed the rules."
'Red light' restrictions
On Friday, Juárez introduced stricter "red light" condition restrictions, including the requirement to use a face mask in public, a limit of two adults per vehicle, a ban on alcohol sales on weekends and a 10pm. until 6 a.m. curfew.
The alcohol sales ban, curfew and vehicle restrictions are designed to slow the spread of the virus by reducing the number of people who may attend gatherings at night.
A Juárez traffic officer inspects a vehicle. A night curfew and a limit of two adults per vehicle were introduced in the Mexican border town on October 23, 2020 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Juarez police reported a decline in public activity and closed 106 parties on Saturday evening and early Sunday. About 90 drivers were stopped and warned of violating the vehicle occupancy limit at the weekend.
More: Fears on the Mexican border are falling as the pandemic slows migration
The Juarez City Emergency Call Center received 442 complaints about parties and gatherings, but only 30 calls turned out to be genuine, the mayor added.
31-year-old Osvaldo Lezama was on a car wash in the parking lot of a Soriana grocery store on Monday morning.
Lezama said he was concerned about the virus and its impact on the Juarez economy. He hopes the return to “red” level restrictions will slow contagion.
"It's going really bad for us - with work and illness," he said, wearing a surgical mask. "People don't obey the rules. They have gatherings. They have parties."
Daniel Borunda can be reached at 915-546-6102; email@example.com; @ BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
Lauren Villagran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the El Paso Times: U.S.-Mexico Border: The Mayor of Juarez Asks to End U.S. Travel Due to COVID-19
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