Covid-19 taking an economic toll on US-Mexico border

By Alex Segura Lozano

El Paso, Texas, Aug 17 (efe-epa).- Itzel Chavez is one of the few persons on the street in this Texas border city that has emerged as a new coronavirus hot spot in the United States.

She is accompanied by her friend Jazmin. Though both were born in the US and have jobs in El Paso, they live on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande in more-affordable Ciudad Juarez.

Every morning, they make the trip across the international bridge to work at a home goods shop in El Paso.

But as US citizens, they are the exceptions. The vast majority of Juarez residents who used to commute to jobs in this city of 700,000 people had their lives turned upside down when the international border was closed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The closure also put a stop to cross-border shopping excursions.

“The economy is very bad since they closed the bridges to people with visas on the Mexican side, as they are the ones who come and do their shopping at every store here in the center of El Paso,” Itzel tells Efe.

The 22-year-old Texas native has seen most of the locally owned businesses in El Paso forced to close, some of them permanently because they “have begun to go bankrupt.”

Broadly speaking, only outlets of the giant fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, have managed to stay open.

“It’s a loss for us, for them (people on the Mexican side of the border) and for everybody,” the masked Chavez says, sitting on a bench.

Seated on a nearby bench is 60-something Pablo Menchon, who says that he does practically “nothing” all day due to the effects of the pandemic on the economy.

Texas is third in the US in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases (561,000) and fourth in fatalities, with 10,491.

The El Paso area has been seeing a spike in infections and last week set a new record with more than 500 new cases in a single day to bring the total to 18,486.

As of Monday, the coronavirus death toll in El Paso County stood at 361.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said recently that the state could experience a surge of cases as schools re-open and as people gather to celebrate the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 7.

Calling on Texans to adhere to pandemic guidelines, he told a press conference last week in El Paso: “The Covid disease does not care about Covid fatigue.”

While Harris County, which includes Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, leads the Lone Star State in coronavirus cases and deaths, the region of Texas with the highest mortality rate relative to infections is the overwhelmingly Hispanic Rio Grande Valley.

More than 60 percent of residents in that area suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or other conditions that amplify the impact of the virus.

Across Texas, roughly 1.2 percent of people infected with Covid-19 die, compared with 2.9 percent in Hidalgo County, the main population center in the Rio Grande Valley. EFE


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