Third Regional Community Conversation on COVID-19 response

May 16, 2020

Credit Regional Community Conversation with moderator Carlos Martinez Vela (top left), Dr. Nicole Brennan (top right), Alvaro Bustillos (bottom left) and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima (bottom right)

Another regional conversation regarding coronavirus and its impacts on health and the economy was held Wednesday, hosted in part by NMSU’s Arrowhead Center.

Taking part in the third such conversation were Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, Dr. Nicole Brennan, Director of Health Research at Battell, based in Columbus, Ohio, and Alvaro Bustillos, CEO of Vaquero Trading and President of Desarrollo Economico de Ciudad Juarez, a group dedicated to finding solutions to improve the quality of life of the people of Juarez.

Dr. Brennan outlined some of the challenges facing our region in its response to the spread of COVID-19. “Movement of populations and having sort of different jurisdictions and some different rules in those jurisdictions creates a complex environment; how Mexico is responding versus how the United States is and then each state has the ability to make their own decisions on opening back up.”

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima recognized local efforts in El Paso to slow the effort to reopen. “I appreciate Mayor Margo and Judge Samaniego asking the Governor, Abbot, to maybe it’s not, you know, if they could kind of get exempt from opening up their communities as quick as, say, other parts of Texas, because if they do that, there’ll be some of our residents in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County who are ready to make that leap and drive over there. If they can kind of keep it at bay, that would be really helpful.” Miyagishima says most of the cases in Dona Ana County are not in the City. “About 70 percent of our cases are actually outside the city. So they’re in the outlying areas like Chaparral, Anthony, Sunland Park; so that’s one thing we recognize that’s a little bit different. You know, we recognize that those are our friends and neighbors down the road. But we’re trying to figure out how that’s happening there and I don’t know. I know that Chaparral is just minutes away from El Paso and I don’t quite understand how it’s getting, moving pretty fast in Chaparral, so we’re a little bit concerned about that.”

According to Alvaro Bustillos, one of the greatest concerns in Juarez continues to be crime. He outlined it as one of four pillars his group works to address. The other 3 pillars the group focuses on are health, the economy and food security, including for those communities outside of the city of Juarez. “We’re trying to work very close with the mountain people, the Qualthemoc and all those communities, they’re very behind on food security, so we’re trying to make donations and work along with the food banks and take them those resources up to those parts of the state. From an economic standpoint, while Bustillos is most concerned about job losses, he says there are opportunities for the region. “I think some of the sectors where we need to focus would probably be auto, textile, electronic, heavy equipment, semi-conductors, and as you may see, we are working into some of these country of origin labels, that we want to establish them as North America origin labels.

Mayor Miyagishima said Las Cruces is on solid economic footing. “I don’t see us doing any layoffs or furloughs or anything like that. We have a couple of layers of backup finances. We have a really big one if we ever needed it and that’s – a good chunk of money in it if we needed to tap into if we need to sustain ourselves.”

Dr. Brennan praised efforts to slow the spread of the virus to create the most valuable resource of all. Time. “We need time to get, develop, distribute more tests. We need time to build up our equipment, our PPE. We need time to get people who are currently in the hospital out of the hospital so that the hospitals have resources, they have beds. We need time to develop and study treatments we know will work; and we really need that time to develop a vaccine, to get it out across the country and to distribute it and get it into people.”