Juarez businesses could reopen next week, mayor says

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City experiencing drop in COVID-19 cases, hopeful to go from "red" to "orange" designation; international travel restrictions remain in place

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The Mayor of Juarez is confident many of his city’s businesses will reopen with limitations next Monday.

Juarez this week remains under a “red light” designation due to the COVID-19 pandemic even as most of the state of Chihuahua advanced to “orange” status. Red means only essential industry can operate; orange means businesses are allowed to open with restrictions.

“Many businesses are in a very difficult position. Some are days away from going broke,” Mayor Armando Cabada said Monday. “I expect that, yes, next Monday we go from red to orange and that next Monday we can begin reopening our economy.”

Conditions for the reopening include two consecutive weeks of declining COVID-19 infections and hospitals not being overcrowded.

Day by day COVID-19 cases in Juarez, Mexico (graphic courtesy State of Chihuahua)

Hospital capacity in Juarez stood at 42% on Monday and coronavirus cases dropped dramatically last week compared to the previous two months. (See chart)

So much so, that the mayor on Monday shut down the mobile COVID-19 hospital in front of City Hall. Doctors evaluated more than 500 patients and housed 45 with pneumonia-like symptoms there.

Juarez businesspeople, particularly restaurant and bar owners, have held protests over not being able to operate.

Juarez announced the closing of its mobile COVID-19 hospital, located in the parking lot of City Hall. (photo courtesy City of Juarez)

Dr. Mirna Beltran, the health undersecretary in Chihuahua state, cautioned that a partial reopening doesn’t mean business as usual and that businesses must enforce social distancing and strict hygiene. “Orange does not mean green,” she said.

One thing that’s not likely to change next week are international travel restrictions. The U.S. and Mexico in March agreed to restrict non-essential travel to prevent cross-border COVID-19 outbreaks.

In practical terms, this means only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can cross the border northbound. The frequent-crosser visa holders from Mexico are banned in most cases, and this has bled Downtown El Paso merchants of its most reliable customers.

On Monday, Cabada said that’s not likely to change in the immediate future.

“In reality, it’s a U.S. decision. Our federal government can negotiate some things, but the determination on whether or not they open (the border) belongs to the U.S. government … to President Trump,” Cabada said.

He says he’s met with El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, who’s told him how his merchants are hurting due to a lack fo Juarez shoppers.

The travel restrictions have been extended at least through June 22, and Cabada said they probably won’t go away soon.

“It’s probable — I cannot confirm this — that they will be extended one more month. That’s up to federal authorities to determine,” he said on Monday.

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