COVID Is Spiking in Mexico, and US Citizens Might Be to Blame

Although the two countries have an agreement to suspend non-essential border crossings, the Chihuahua state government claims that’s not being enforced on the Mexican side.
united states border with Mexico, el paso
People sell souvenirs on a street leading to the Paso del Norte International Bridge, which spans from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas, on July 23, 2020. Photo by Erin Clark,The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

MEXICO CITY - All six Mexican states that border the U.S. have seen an uptick of coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, and the one that's been especially hard-hit is blaming Americans for the surge.

While the U.S. and Mexico agreed in March to suspend land border crossing between the two nations except for essential trips, like work or medical emergencies, the border-state government of Chihuahua claims that’s not happening. This week the Chihuahua Congress unanimously approved a proposal to ask the Mexican federal government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to actually enforce the agreement, and keep nonessential American citizens from crossing over.


Mexico's federal government uses a stoplight system where it gives each state a designation of red, orange, yellow, or green, that recommends the level of coronavirus restrictions states should implement. In late August, Chihuahua, Mexico's largest state, finally moved to yellow, which is the closest it can get to a full reopening prior to green.

It didn’t go well.

Coronavirus cases spiked, and earlier this month the state was back to the orange designation again. Today, the state officially moved to red for the first time since June, instituting strict coronavirus restrictions, and local politicians are blaming their northern neighbors.

“The free transit of U.S. citizens [over the border] implies a great risk to the bordering cities in our state," said Alejandro Gloria González, the Chihuahua politician who proposed the recent resolution to better enforce the non-essential border restrictions.

He specifically mentioned that the Texas border city of El Paso has some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and that its Mexican sister city across the bridge, Juarez, is feeling the ramifications. Four hospitals in the state are now at maximum capacity, including two in Ciudad Juarez.

On October 20, the state government announced 359 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest single-day tally since the pandemic began.

"We have never had such a number of cases in 24 hours. If each one infects ten (others), there will be a catastrophe," said Arturo Valenzuela, northern Chihuahua’s state medical director.

The border state of Nuevo Leon to the east is another that saw a recent rise in COVID cases and remains in orange on the stoplight system. Although they have yet to make direct moves toward reinforcing the border like Chihuahua, the State Health Secretary of Nuevo Leon, Dr. Manuel de la O Cavazos, warned that stricter measures could be coming because the new wave could be "worse than the previous one" and protocols are "going to go back to how we had them in the initial stage [of the pandemic].”

The federal government has yet to publicly respond to Chihuahua authorities about border enforcement, but as cases continue to rise on the southern side of the U.S. border, it may soon be harder for Americans to cross with the same ease of the last few months.