Mexican border state requires rapid antibody testing if employers want to reopen

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Economic activity limited to cleaning and rearranging of work spaces for now in Chihuahua

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral outlines under what conditions businesses and factories will reopen after June 1. (photo capture from Facebook Live)

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Mexico on Monday green-lighted the reopening of some businesses, but in border states like Chihuahua governors set additional rules out of caution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral on Monday said more essential businesses in his state could open, but only to clean up premises and reconfigure work paces to ensure social distancing. Operations may resume on June 1 after each enterprise that employees more than 250 people — including the U.S.-run maquiladoras — sign compacts with the state promising to:

  • Establish sanitation controls for everyone who comes into their building or buildings, including temperature taking and hand sanitizing
  • Provide employees with personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and/or gowns, if applicable
  • Keep “vulnerable” employees home (it wasn’t specified who’s “vulnerable”)
  • Stop using common areas where it’s not possible to observe social distancing; cafeterias or dining halls are only to be used if social distancing can be observed
  • Keep meetings to fewer than 10 people
  • Provide employees transportation to work (in the case of factories with more than 500 workers) in vehicles where social distancing can be observed
  • Create an internal safety and health contingency committee to communicate with state health authorities regarding possible sick employees
  • Conduct rapid COVID-19 antibody tests on workers

“All businesses will have to sign a pledge they will be conducting these tests,” Corral said. “We are still on a (COVID-19) growth phase, the curve is still ascending. In Juarez, we will soon see things go down, but (the city) is not there yet.”

Requirements for businesses who want to resume operations in the state of Chihuahua. (Government of Chihuahua)

Chihuahua will not fully reopen its businesses until the pandemic is on the wane. Corral said the state would use the “green light, red light” assessment system set up by the Mexican government to determine levels of activity in each state.

On Monday, Corral said his state “remains on red.” The state has recorded 1,105 cases of COVID-19 and 201 fatalities. Most of cases and deaths have taken place in Juarez.

The Chihuahua governor said the federal government is not requiring businesses to conduct coronavirus testing. But he said the tests “are a fundamental instrument to reactivate our economy.” So he will require such a pledge from businesses. (See minutes 41 through 46 of this Facebook video)

It’s not known if Mexico has sufficient rapid antibody test kits. Corral said he’s pressing Mexico City to allow for the importation of such kits. “For us, this is a very important condition,” the governor said.

Likewise, it will be the state and not the federal government that determines if Chihuahua has come out of the “red light” or not, he said. Corral said the state would “look at” the federal government’s color designation for his state and make an independent determination on whether it is or not “convenient.”

“Here in Chihuahua, the State Health Council has authority. […] Those 2,000 kilometers away don’t know how Chihuahua and Juarez are. Those of us here know because we’ve had to face the problem, even without additional resources from the federal government, with our own nails,” Corral said.

The governor said he would be meeting with industry leaders and business chambers in coming days to discuss his plan in depth.

Border Report on Monday tried to obtain comment from Juarez industry leaders but didn’t receive an immediate reply.

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