JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez closed April with a three-fold increase in COVID-19 deaths compared to March. Local health officials hope to reverse that trend through continued restrictions to economic activity and increased vaccination.
Four hundred twenty-four Juarez residents died from coronavirus complications in April compared to 129 in March, according to the Chihuahua state Health Department. El Paso, across the border, tallied 131 COVID-19 fatalities in April. The Far West Texas city has managed to fully vaccinate 43.1% of the population and 64.3% has received at least one shot.
Chihuahua officials on Monday addressed shortcomings in vaccinations in Juarez, which leaves this border city prone to sudden COVID-19 spikes that prompt lockdowns such as the ones implemented in the past two weekends.
Gov. Javier Corral said thousands of COVID-19 vaccines would be administered this week throughout the state, focusing on those 60 and older who already received one dose and offering first doses to adults 50 to 59. Health workers at private hospitals – who were excluded from vaccines in early April – this weekend received a first dose.
“Practically all our health workers, more than 90% of them, are now vaccinated. This includes public hospitals and private institutions,” Corral said in a teleconference.
But he warned against pinning hopes of bringing COVID-19 under control through vaccinations alone.
“The vaccine makes us stronger but does not, by itself, prevent transmission,” he said, adding that “observing social distancing, wearing masks, not going out to parties or family reunions does” will.
State inspectors for the past two weekends have been out enforcing non-essential activity lockdowns.
Corral said early results from the lockdowns show improvement. No new deaths were reported in Juarez on Monday and only three new COVID-19 cases were recorded.
“The upward trend has been interrupted and we will see if it’s now trending down,” the governor said. “Citizens are again aware of how unpredictable (the pandemic) is. The lockdowns have reminded us the danger is still there.”
Juarez and the rest of the state will continue under the orange threat level. This means most business can operate at 50% capacity, with churches, casinos and shops inside malls only at 30% and restaurants closing by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.
Given the recent spikes and lacking higher vaccination rates, Chihuahua state officials are not recommending a reopening of the border to non-essential land travel at this time. Mexico and the U.S. agreed to the restrictions back in March 2020, and both countries must agree to do away with them before they’re lifted.