JUÁREZ, Mexico – The mayor of Juárez made an urgent plea for help from the Mexican government, asking for medical supplies and to consider banning U.S. citizens from crossing the border.
Like in El Paso, Texas, new cases of COVID-19 are surging in Chihuahua state with the epicenter in Juárez, which hit 1,100 deaths over the weekend, state public health officials said.
Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada is asking the Mexican government to consider temporarily banning U.S. citizens from nonessential travel over the border as COVID-19 flares in the region, reports the El Paso Times, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
Travel by U.S. citizens in "indiscriminate crossings at the border in Ciudad Juárez are contributing in an active manner to the expansion of the virus," Cabada said Friday in a letter to Roberto Velasco Alvarez, director for North America in Mexico's Secretariat of Foreign Relations.
The U.S. has restricted nonessential Mexican tourist travel over the land border since March 21, but U.S. residents still are able to go to Mexico.
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Cabada also made an "urgent plea" for medical supplies for hospitals over the weekend in a separate open letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Juárez hospitals need beds, ventilators, oxygen tanks and medication, as well as personal protective equipment for medical workers, Cabada said in the letter.
Cabada himself is hospitalized after testing positive for the virus for a second time.
A mobile tent hospital will be set up outside a Juárez hospital, state health officials said.
There were 364 new infections recorded across Chihuahua state in the previous 24 hours, state health officials said Sunday.
"Tell me where there isn't an outbreak? Right now in Chihuahua we are in 'red' (public health alert level), an intense red. Anywhere you put your finger on a map there is an outbreak," Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, health director for the northern region of Chihuahua state, said Monday in virtual news briefing responding to a question about an outbreak in a maquiladora industrial factory.
There have been more than 11,800 cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed in Juárez since the pandemic began, but actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to limited amounts of testing.
Esly Jaquez, 19, used to cross to El Paso with her laser visa, or border crossing card. She hasn’t crossed since the U.S. government’s restrictions on nonessential travel went into effect in March.
Still, she said closing the border on the Mexican side isn’t the answer. Both sides need to better control the pandemic, she said.
“Just like they need to take precautions, we need to take precautions,” she said, waiting for a ride at the Plaza Victoria shopping center in Juárez. “Very few people have been following the rules.”
'Red light' restrictions
On Friday, Juárez implemented tighter "red light" state restrictions, including mandating the use of a face mask in public, limiting two adults per vehicle, a prohibition on weekend alcohol sales and a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
The alcohol-sales ban, curfew and vehicle limits are intended to slow the spread of the virus by decreasing the number of people out at night possibly attending gatherings.
Juárez police reported seeing a decrease in public activity and closed 106 parties Saturday night and early Sunday, officials said. About 90 drivers were stopped and warned for violating the vehicle occupancy limit over the weekend.
The city of Juárez's emergency call center received 442 complaints about parties and gatherings, but only 30 calls turned out to be real, the mayor added.
Osvaldo Lezama, 31, was hawking his car-washing services Monday morning in the parking lot of a Soriana grocery store.
Lezama said he was worried about the virus and its effect on the economy in Juárez. He said he hopes the return to “red” level restrictions will slow the contagion.
“It’s going really badly for us – with work and the sickness,” he said, wearing a surgical mask. “People aren’t following the rules. They have get-togethers. They have parties.”
Lauren Villagran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: US-Mexico border: Juárez mayor asks to stop US travel due to COVID-19