Mexican border state expands COVID-19 checks to 8 ports of entry

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Travelers coming from the US questioned, some sent for medical checks; deportees also passing through Chihuahua state "sanitary fence"

With the support of the Secretary of State Public Security, the Ministry of Health works to detect people with symptoms of COVID-19 in different road sections. (Courtesy State of Chihuahua)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A Mexican state has extended health screenings of visitors coming from the U.S. to eight border crossings today.

Chihuahua state police have set up new checkpoints a few yards south of the following border crossings and are interviewing motorists and pedestrians regarding possible COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Palomas-Columbus, N.M.
  • Juarez-Santa Teresa, N.M.
  • Tornillo, Texas-Guadalupe, Mexico
  • Ojinaga-Presidio, Texas
  • Four checkpoints have been operating since Monday south of the Juarez-El Paso, Texas ports of entry.

A random number of motorists are being sent over to a secondary inspection area where health workers take their temperature and ask them for fill out a questionnaire that includes other places they’ve visited recently and whether they’ve been in contact with sick people, state government spokesman Manuel del Castillo said.

Chihuahua State Police members, wearing protective suits, take part in an information and prevention campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Cordoba-De las Americas International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, on March 29, 2020. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Chihuahua’s expansion of its border “sanitary fence” comes as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Texas and New Mexico. As of Wednesday, Chihuahua has confirmed only 11 cases (seven in Juarez, four in Chihuahua City), while New Mexico reported 315 cases and five deaths, and Texas tallied 3,266 cases and 41 deaths.

Texas alone has had more than twice as many cases as all of Mexico, hence the precautions, said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, state Health Department director in Juarez.

In a Facebook Live transmission Wednesday morning, state officials showed off the new COVID-19 checkpoint south of the Presidio-Ojinaga border crossing.

Juan Carlos Valdivia at the COVID-19 checkpoint in Ojinaga, Mexico. (photo courtesy Chihuahua state government)

The visitors “are given a flier with prevention information, they are asked some questions like where they are coming from and if they have any symptoms,” said Juan Carlos Valdivia, state treasurer in Ojinaga.

Visitors suspected of being sick — those with fever, cough, sniffles, headaches and difficulty breathing — are referred to a medical provider or asked to return to the United States.

Mexican federal immigration officers are also checking inbound passenger buses as well as Mexican citizens and foreigners deported daily by U.S. immigration authorities, Valdivia said.

He added that border traffic has gone down significantly since international travel restrictions and stay-at-home measures have been observed in both countries. Only a couple of hundred vehicles are coming across from Presidio now, Valdivia said, compared to several hundred just a few weeks ago.

A Chihuahua state police officer checks the temperature of a trucker at a highway checkpoint near the Chihuahua-Durango border. (Image courtesy Chihuahua state government)

Del Castillo said highway checkpoints also have been set up at Kilometer 31 of the Juarez-Chihuahua City Highway south of Juarez, and towns near the Durango and Coahuila state borders, to the south and the east, respectively.

Valenzuela said the checkpoints are only part of the state’s strategy to bring COVID-19 under control. Whereas last week all of the infections in Chihuahua were acquired abroad, the last few victims were infected in the community.

“The most recent patients had not had contact with foreigners nor traveled to cities or countries with lots of cases. Chihuahua, like the rest of Mexico, has entered the community spread phase,” he said, stressing the importance of abiding by the stay-at-home orders issued on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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