Juarez isolating newly arrived migrants, restricting access to buildings after COVID-19 case confirmed

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Mexican man acquired virus in trip to Italy; Juarez officials outline measures to keep next possible case from "turning to hundreds of cases"

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Juarez is isolating newly arrived migrants for 14 days, banning gatherings of more than 100 people and restricting access to public buildings after confirming its first case of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The victim is a 29-year-old Mexican citizen who recently traveled to Italy and self-quarantined after developing flu-like symptoms when he landed in Los Angeles, California, the Chihuahua state health department said. The unidentified victim is now recovering at home in Juarez and no one around him has been found to be infected so far. Still, health officials are taking steps to make sure any future COVID-19 cases “don’t turn into hundreds of cases.”

“This is a regional concern and it will be addressed as such,” Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada said, referring to the three COVID-19 cases in neighboring El Paso, Texas. “It’s important not to panic. The one (infection) in Juarez was caught abroad as were the three in El Paso. The virus is not spreading locally, yet.”

To keep things that way, the city government is telling 579 employees who are over 60 years of age, pregnant or disabled to work from home and is only letting in groups of 10 persons into public buildings at a time. Already on Tuesday, people were lined up outside and those who got into City Hall were being told by surgical mask-wearing police officers to disinfect their hands.

Juarez police officers watch as a visitor to City Hall disinfects her hands upon coming into the building. (photo by Julian Resendiz/ BorderReport)

Concerts and spectator sports are canceled through mid-April and bars and restaurants are being asked to operate at 50 percent capacity so that people inside aren’t too close to each other.

In addition, the Health Department is making sure the city’s 300-plus U.S.-run maquiladora factories have medical staff on site. The plants that manufacture parts for automobiles, electronics vendors and the medical industry in the United States employ about 200,000 people here. The Health Department also will form a pool of on-call physicians to make house calls on the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, so they don’t crowd hospitals.

Cabada said a thermal camera would be installed on Wednesday at Juarez International Airport to detect and isolate travelers coming in with fever, and that a second camera would be placed at the Central Bus station next week. Already, medical personnel are using a skin thermometer to take the temperature of those who arrive at the airport. The point is to detect new COVID-19 cases as soon as possible and isolate the victims.

“We made the decision to send medical personnel to (migrant shelters) for screenings and new arrivals will be isolated for at least 14 days,” Cabada said.

Earlier, the Mexican government called on schools to shut down for the rest of the month and on Tuesday the Catholic Diocese of Juarez suspended Mass indefinitely and the mayor said he would talk to Protestant leaders to do likewise regarding worship services that draw more than 100 people.

The mayor said a task force of government, business and social leaders has been formed to monitor the progress of COVID-19 in the region and propose additional measures.

“They’re also suggesting that families go out only when it’s necessary. If a family needs (groceries), only one person should go do the shopping,” he said. “We are not necessarily suggesting that people isolate, but it’s advised to go out as little as possible.”

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