REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – As the death toll for COVID-19 increases both in the USA (1.7 million cases and 104,373 deaths) and Mexico (81.400 cases and 8,134 deaths), there is often a disconnect between what is announced as policy at the national capital and what is the reality on the ground in either country.

As Mexico reached level three in the pandemic, a series of directives came down from the national government dictating what were essential businesses and what were non-essential.

Breweries and automotive part manufacturers were closed down as non-essential, to the chagrin of both industries, to the extent that Grupo Modelo, the manufacturer of the Corona, Pacifica and Modelo brands, suspended operations on April 3, but not without some pushback from bars, restaurants and distributors throughout the supply chain.

Initially, it appeared the breweries had obtained an exemption from the Ministry of Agriculture, but that reopening was quickly vetoed by Under-Secretary of Health, Dr Hugo Lopez-Gatell and continued closed until a scheduled June re-opening.

Automotive parts and assembly factories were shut down as early as April 2 in Sonora, even when the state was only reporting 17 cases to date, in part due to strong union contracts in the automotive industry that required 100 percent compensation for laid-off workers in the case of a declared emergency. Meanwhile, most of the maquiladoras in Reynosa continued to work without much disruption until the national government announced Phase 3, the most serious level of coronavirus.

Implementation of those protocols varied within different states. In Tamaulipas, at the same time Mexican shoppers with visas were banned from crossing into the U.S., Mexico implemented health checkpoints where travelers entering from the U.S. were required to wear a mask, have no more than two persons in a vehicle at a time, schools were closed until June 1, restaurants could only provide take out service, automobiles were ordered to stay parked one day per week according to their license plate numbers, and only one person per family was allowed to enter supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies or other businesses deemed as essential by the governor.

In some states “dry laws” either prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages altogether, or restricted the hours they could be purchased. Throughout the country the shutdown of breweries severely restricted the supply forcing shortages, long lines at convenience stores, and the abuse of alcohol manufactured for purposes other than for consumption, such as the alcohol in hand sanitizer.

While the national government and Dr Lopez-Catell predicted that Mexico would soon flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection, the virus began to replicate in the other direction, spurring the health ministry to create a “traffic light” dynamic which would tell a state governor how his state was progressing in terms of COVID-19 new infection rates. This would help in the decision-making process for the reopen dates for schools, government and commerce.

Presently, the virus, far from leveling off, is growing at such a rate that the entire country with the exception of Zacatecas (Orange) is under a Red Light, which means that Level 3 protocols should remain in place. Not a single state in Mexico has reached a level of safety (Green) which justifies reopening non-essential businesses and places of employment. Tamaulipas State just recently published a protocol that basically continues Level 3 measures until July 15, 2020. 

Maquiladoras


Exploring the realities of open and/or reopening maquiladoras in Reynosa is an exercise in confusion. Reaching out to friends in Reynosa this reporter hears the following comments:

“They (the Maquiladoras) never closed. They just cut back on hours and made the vulnerable employees take time off,” said Cristina Andrade, a mother of two whose insurance business depends heavily on maquiladora employees.

Roberta Soto, a line worker at a local maquiladora that builds commercial communications equipment, said: “They have recently opened several, I think all of them now. I was sent home for 30 days because of medical problems that put me at risk, but I am going back tomorrow. They closed all the maquiladoras for two weeks now they are all open again.”

Rosario Juarez, whose family is active in the sector had this to say: “Maquiladoras who make medical supplies, Ericka, Bart, Corning Cable have not closed. Others have worked on staggered shifts with reduced personal. The maquiladoras that are in the automotive sector will be reopening tomorrow.”

Maquiladoras completely closing in some states like Sonora and not closing at all in places like Reynosa? If you are confused, join the club. There is no apparent lack of disease in the city bordering McAllen, Mission and Pharr. On May 30, Reynosa General Hospital was closed after health care workers – including 13 nurses, six medical students, two residents, and two technicians – were diagnosed with COVID-19. Two weeks ago this reporter was told by a local physician that some 70 COVID-19 patients were being cared for at the Social Security Specialty Clinic 270 on the highway to San Fernando.

Likewise, on Saturday, units from the State Health Department of Tamaulipas were at the Hidalgo Bridge in Reynosa, checking vehicles coming from Texas to assure that no more than two people were in each car and wearing masks. Non-compliant visitors were being escorted to the lines and forced to return to the U.S.

Mexico has reported 81,400 cases of Coronavirus and 8,134 deaths. The State of Tamaulipas has reported 1,931 cases with 121 deaths. Reynosa has reported 234 cases while Matamoros is at 446.


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