REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – According to news media and radio sources, Mexico, currently in the throes of a growing COVID-19 pandemic, could open automotive plants soon.

Critics says the Mexican government may be succumbing to international and national pressure to open maquiladoras in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Querétaro, and Aguascalientes as soon as this month.

High rates of infection, or their anticipation had driven the closure of all factories and businesses in the country considered non-essential. The automotive industry and the breweries of the country particularly suffered through recent closures, with hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed and economic losses in the billions.

Apparently, now caught up in a campaign of pushback in the U.S. auto industry, many of those plants with the support of their governors have decided to run the risks of re-opening even as COVID-19 cases and deaths by the virus are on the rise.

While in other parts of Mexico have seen pushback to strict COVID-19 policies, in Reynosa there seems to be a general spirit of compliance. People on the streets are wearing masks and keepIng distance from one another. Businesses are well supplied with sanitizing hand gel and employees are assuring clients maintain safe intervals.

Tamaulipas, under a strict COVID-19 protocol, has restricted entrance to essential businesses that are open and has announced that schools will remain closed in the state until the next school year, contrary to the target opening of all schools on June 1, 2020.

Says realtor Martha Gutierrez: “The Governor (Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca) has mandated some very strict measures. Only one person from each car at a supermarket is allowed to go into a store. They take your temperature at the door.”

Armando Flores who works for the state government of Tamaulipas, sanitizes medical facilities and restaurants all day long in his work day.

“We are now taking the kind of prevention measurement that we should have all along. This is here to stay. Not the virus hopefully, but the sanitary practices we should have been practicing all along,” Flores said.

At Banco Santander, attendants wear a mask and a shield to assist clients who must wait outside the bank until spacing and capacity protocols permit them to enter.

At Pollo Loco clients can only wait outside while attendants take their orders and hand deliver them to their waiting cars. At the Subway Sandwich Shop in the trendy H100 Plaza, one can walk in to order but take food out to consume.

On the streets people waiting for buses wear masks. Even the ever-present windshield washers who hang out at every major intersection of Reynosa are masked while they work. It seems the message of prevention is being taken seriously by the general population. The message above them, however, seems mixed.

From Reynosa, Radio Gape announced that maquiladoras in the auto parts sector would be operating as early as this Saturday, May 16, in Querétaro and Aguascalientes. Meanwhile in Ciudad Juarez, a local newspaper says that talks are underway between U.S. and Mexican manufacturers to open up Juarez factories before the end of the month.

“Maquiladoras that manufacture products for the automotive sector in Ciudad Juárez, which currently remain closed due to the Covid-19 health emergency, could reopen their doors in the first weeks of May if the United States and Mexico’s governments reach agreements, due to the reopening of the North American economy announced by the President of the United States, Donald Trump,” states the article in El Heraldo de Ciudad Juarez.

Maquilas in Ciudad Juarez have been closedfollowing the deaths of plant employees. As of May 13, there had been 40,186 cases of COVID-19 reported, resulting in 4,222 deaths. The Mexican Government has estimated that the true number of cases may exceed reported cases by 7 to 8 times.

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