The Pandemic's Effect On The Border: Las Cruces, El Paso, Juarez And The Southwest

Apr 5, 2021

New Mexico State University’s Center for Latin American and Border Studies held a virtual panel to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on the U.S.- Mexico Border.

One challenge involves trade.

Travis Leyva is the Director of the New Mexico Office of Border Health.

One thing to note that has been very challenging over the last year is our two major port of entries. One in Santa Teresa, which is a very high commercial port of entry for Mexico and the U.S, and also Columbus, which we do also get a lot of commercial passing through,” said Leyva.

Leyva says New Mexico’s current focus is accessibility to vaccine distribution.

“We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get the vaccine. Some of the interventions and what we’re doing to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get the vaccine is we’ve set some community health workers, health specialists, and disease prevention specialists all throughout the whole region to help everyone who may not be able to register or who do not understand the registration process. That’s a huge thing for us. As you know, along the border, we have very rural areas. We want to make sure that the opportunity is for everyone throughout the state,” said Leyva.

The New Mexico Department of Health relied on Epidemiologist Melissa Limon in working with El Paso health officials in identifying binational cases. 

“Binational cases are people that are exposed in Mexico, especially New Mexico residents. They have traveled throughout the pandemic to Mexico to visit family, to go to the doctors, or to do their grocery shopping. As you know, with living in the border, many people travel across the border every day. We track these cases, especially if they contracted COVID-19,” said Limon

The panel also included Dr. Georgina Delgado, Director of IMSS Hospital in Ciudad Juarez. Dr. Delgado explained the different trends there.

Ciudad Juarez currently has around 30,000 cases, with about 2,800 deaths. Ciudad Juarez saw a large spike of COVID-19 cases during January and February, and cases are slowly starting to decline again,” said Delgado.

There is some good news.

Delgado says vaccines are beginning to be distributed throughout Mexico.

“There has been over 5,700,000 vaccines distributed throughout Mexico, but only 734,000 of these distributions are the complete vaccine. With a low percent of the population being vaccinated, health officials are relying on COVID-19 safe practices such as the use of face masks, social distancing, and only going out for essential purposes to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico,” said Delgado.

San Diego and Baja California also see a lot of commercial traffic through their U.S. Mexico ports of entry. University of California San Diego professor Dr. Linda Hill describes how San Diego County has handled COVID-19.

When we look at the COVID rates in San Diego and the Baja area, it is really hard to compare because we were using different systems. Testing became more widely available as time went on, and both symptomatic and asymptomatic people had access to testing. It started to become required for work, school, and procedures. My colleagues in Baja told us that they were approaching COVID testing with a sentinel method and more of an epidemiologic approach. So, it’s been very hard to compare the rates,” said Hill.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to affect the U.S.-Mexico Border, health officials remind the public to continue COVID safe practices.