REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – On the highway that connects Reynosa to Anzalduas Bridge, some local youths artistically posted a graffiti message to passers-by: “Reynosa Prohibido Rendirse.” Or, “Reynosa, giving up is forbidden.”

Written where it is, outside the Villa Florida neighborhood, one of Reynosa’s toughest, it could have many meanings, but it’s location in the industrial sector of Reynosa hints that the city should always stand tall in the face of the ongoing adversity that Tamaulipas’ most populated city has endured over the years. 

Reynosa has seen the loss of tourism to violence and insecurity. It has seen the exodus of iconic businesses like Walmart, Chedraui, Schlumberger, and an endless number of unfortunate enterprises that could not withstand the pressures of co-existing in an environment dominated by organized crime. 

Enter now the latest challenge to the city’s well-being, COVID-19, the worldwide pandemic. 

Currently with a reported case rate of 742 infections, with a multiplier of eight to ten non-reported cases, according to epidemiologist Dr Hugo Lopez-Gastell, it would suggest a real case incidence of some 5,000 to 6,000 infections. Indeed some of the infrastructure in place is starting to become overwhelmed. 

According to El Mañana of Reynosa, Social Security Hospital number 270, the best equipped hospital for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, is now at capacity and unable to accept any additional coronavirus patients, because such patients usually require extended periods of ventilator care. 

The overflow of patients has been sent to recently constructed modular hospitals units at the Materno-infantil Hospital on the Monterrey Highway, and the Reynosa General Hospital, which itself had been shut down and quarantined when 23 staff members became infected with COVID-19. The gymnasium at the shuttered University of Tamaulipas has been adapted for use as a COVID -19 treatment center. 

A drive to Reynosa reveals a surreal world of mostly shutdown malls with no operating food courts and most of the businesses inside them deemed nonessential. Soriana Supermarket in Plaza Sendero is open but two uniformed security guards check the temperatures of customers entering the store. Only one person per car is authorized to enter at a time and there is no question or debate about the merits of wearing a face covering. Masks are mandatory outside your home period  Maintenance staff even wear face shields as they wash windows and spray the spaces of the plaza with disinfectant. At Banco Santander the staff inside wear masks and face shields, and access to the bank is strictly regulated to comply with spacing requirements. 

At Benavides Pharmacy, employees wearing masks attend customers who must also enter the store with a facial covering. Even Seven-Eleven stores feature masked cashiers  behind the same acrylic barrier that has become universal in the brave new world of COVID-19. To control traffic, drivers are redistricting to using their vehicle only once a week, with enforcement ensured via the checking of number plates. To set an example to the citizens of his state, Governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca always wears a face covering when seen in public.  

The Rio Grande Valley

Hidalgo County, Texas had reported 1,347 cases of COVID-19 as of June 18. Neighboring Cameron County was then at 1,301, with Starr County reporting 186 cases and Willacy County at 71, for a total of  2,905 in the Rio Grande Valley. Despite those ever-growing cases, the Valley has been witnessing a collective relaxing of the strict isolation and distancing measures that had kept case levels at a very low level thru Memorial Day. The phased reopening of businesses and the suspension of mandatory mask regulations by Governor Greg Abbott, even against the recommendations of Valley elected and health officials has produced an environment extremely different than the still strict northern Tamaulipas. 

In contrast to the eerily quiet streets of Reynosa, McAllen was seeing traffic jams on South 10th Street and a reopened La Plaza Mall was relatively full of shoppers for a hot Wednesday afternoon. Face coverings we’re supposed to be required for mall employees, but several were seen greeting the public without them and without the now ever-present  barriers separating them from potentially airborne COVID-19 infections. 

Moreover, customers, no longer required to wear masks, were seen walking about the mall without them, in groups of four to five, in families and even with small children in tow. Outside the Victoria’s Secret Store a long line of customers, many not wearing masks waited to enter the store, presumably in keeping with capacity guidelines. However, there was no semblance of distancing in the line as people were at very close interval, as if unaware of spacing guidelines, or perhaps weary of them. In the food court people sat in groups with no facial coverings.

The State of Texas since Memorial Day has seen one of the steepest increases in COVID-19 in the United States, calling into doubt the pace and measures of reopening. Governor Abbott, unlike his Mexican counterpart in Tamaulipas, has been very lukewarm on requiring the use of face coverings, even at one point overruling county judges and mayors who insisted on implementing them. Weary of the exploding COVID-19 infections, several Texas counties have taken matters into their own hands, enacting mandatory mask orders in defiance of Abbott. The counties of the Rio Grande Valley are no exception. Today Hidalgo County as well as Cameron County and Starr County have all enacted mandatory mask laws for businesses, with staff and customers required to wear them. These mandates went into effect last Friday.    

The order was signed Thursday by Hidalgo County Judge, Richard Cortez. Click here to read the order. 

Additionally, Mission Mayor Dr. Armando Ocaña has ordered a 12:00AM to 5:00 AM curfew in the city. 

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