COVID-19 claims 16 new lives in Juarez; more infections feared as Mexico reopens economy

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COVID-19 infections day-by-day in Chihuahua state. (graphic courtesy State of Chihuahua)

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Juarez is reporting 16 new COVID-19 deaths today, one day after thousands of people returned to their jobs and some government offices reopened.

This city across the border from El Paso, Texas, has now recorded 282 fatalities and 1,281 confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. In addition, at least 30 people remained in serious conditions at hospitals, breathing with the aid of ventilators.

Chihuahua state health officials said the spike wasn’t related to the economic reopening. There likely will be additional COVID-19 contagion as a result of increased people movement on the streets, but that won’t be reflected for several days, said Dr. Leticia Ruiz, head of preventive health services in the state.

A health worker disinfects the uniform of a Juarez firefighter, as the city remains under a “red light” due to the rate of COVID-19 infections and mortalities. (photo courtesy City of Juarez)

Most of the fatalities involve people with some health ailments like hypertension (32%), diabetes (25%) and obesity (18%). Eleven of the fatalities involve doctors, nurses, lab techs and nurse’s aides, state officials said.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the state health department in Juarez, said mandatory facemask use and social distancing remains in place despite the return to work of 30 percent of the labor force as of Monday.

He said the state that borders both Texas and New Mexico would remain under Mexico’s “red light” designation until the number of infections drops for two consecutive weeks, hospital capacity remains low and the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of tests administered remains steady of goes down.

One of the main concerns raised on both sides of the border is the low testing capacity in Juarez, a city with a lot of family interaction with El Paso. Valenzuela said testing has increased in Juarez recently, to 217 tests being administered per 100,000 population. He said hospital capacity was at 42 percent.

The COVID-19 mortality rate in Juarez on Tuesday stood at 22 percent, compared to under 3 percent in El Paso.

El Paso County reported three additional deaths this morning, bringing the total number of fatalities to 83. Thirty-nine new cases were reported, bringing the county’s total to 2,833.

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