SAN LUIS, Ariz. – The mayor here is hoping that the recent reopening of nonessential businesses in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., doesn’t bring about a new surge in COVID-19 that could then cross the border.
The Municipal Health Committee in the Sonora border city on July 22 decided to allow the reopening of restaurants, gyms, theaters, museums and hotels at reduced capacity and under other restrictions.
The decision came after Mexico’s federal health agency determined that the risk of coronavirus infection in Sonora had fallen. Nonessential businesses in San Luis Rio Colorado were shuttered several months ago as COVID-19 cases began to emerge.
Gerardo Sanchez, mayor of San Luis, Ariz., fears the Sonora city could experience a resurgence of the virus similar to that in Arizona, where cases climbed dramatically in June and July after the state’s restaurants, bars and other businesses reopened.
“I think it’s something that’s sensitive,” said Sanchez. “I don’t know if they took into account examples such as that of Arizona, which opened up too quickly and the numbers (of infections) went up.”
Sanchez noted that Centers for Disease Control guidelines call for gradual reopening of nonessential businesses in areas that sustain a drop in infection rates over a four- to 12-week period.
In San Luis Rio Colorado, the infection rate has continued to climb, although at a slower pace in the last month.
As of Wednesday, there were 1,221 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Luis Rio Colorado, compared with 10,671 in Yuma County. Mexico does not make use of mass testing to track the spread of the virus, instead opting for testing only those people with severe symptoms for the purpose of developing models of infection trends.
Sanchez is concerned about a new surge in COVID-19 given that residents of Yuma County and San Luis Rio Colorado frequently travel back and forth across the border.
U.S. ports of entry at San Luis have limited border crossings by Mexican citizens to essential reasons. Meanwhile, the Mexican port of entry at San Luis Rio Colorado has reduced its hours of operation but allows people from the north to come across for other-than-essential reasons.
Sanchez urged Yuma County residents to take extra precautions when crossing the border, so as not to bring the virus back.
Noting that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a new round of closures of bars and gyms in the wake of the summer surge of COVID-19, Sanchez said he foresees the same restrictions being reimposed in San Luis Rio Colorado in the event of a new outbreak.
Rebecca Ching, tourism development and promotion director for San Luis Rio Colorado, said restaurants and other nonessential businesses are following strict health guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. But, she added, it’s up to the public to do its part to avoid a new outbreak.
“I call (on the public) to not lower your guard, to follow preventative measures. We don’t want to go back to a red light.”
Ching was referring to the color-coded ranking system Mexico’s federal health agency uses to rate the severity of coronavirus infections around the country. Sonora ranked in the red, placing the state at the highest level of risk, before dropping one notch to orange last month.
With the state having descended to orange, the cities were given the option of reopening nonessential businesses under restrictions. Other cities in Sonora, however, have chosen to keep nonessential businesses shuttered.