COVID-19

What’s changed at the U.S.-Mexico border because of COVID-19?

Andy Uhler and Sabri Ben-Achour Mar 12, 2020
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A man sits on a fountain just across the street from the border crossing in Brownsville, Texas, on June 29, 2019. Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

What’s changed at the U.S.-Mexico border because of COVID-19?

Andy Uhler and Sabri Ben-Achour Mar 12, 2020
A man sits on a fountain just across the street from the border crossing in Brownsville, Texas, on June 29, 2019. Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images
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Hundreds of thousands of people cross back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico every day for a number of reasons: maybe they have a job on one side and live on the other, maybe they have family that needs attention. You don’t think of a border crossing as a mass gathering, but it essentially is.

Marketplace’s Andy Uhler is in Brownsville, Texas, trying to figure out what’s changed at the border as a result of COVID-19. He spoke with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour about what he’s seeing. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Andy Uhler: I spent [Wednesday] hanging out at the bus stop just a few yards from the border. It’s where I ran into Juan Benevidez. He lives in Matamoros but has business partners on the Brownsville side, and he’s meeting up with them. I asked him if he was concerned about COVID-19 and he says, personally, he’s trying to make sure to wash his hands and pay attention to the news, but people in Matamoros, and the government officials, there don’t seem to be all that concerned. He says everyone is continuing to go to work, public transportation and movement of people is all the same. He says everything is the same and nobody seems all that worried about it in Mexico. And you can see that at the border, too.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So, what about people staying home and not going to work, like so many companies are doing here in the United States?

Uhler: Right. I kept asking folks at the border about that. And almost to a person, they told me that’s not an option. What’s interesting is that one woman I spoke with, Maria Guadalupe Contreras, who also lives in Matamoros and is visiting family in Brownsville, said the only people she knows who are not going to work anymore are people who are in the health care industry.

She says she has a friend who works at a health care center in Matamoros. Those are the people who have rules about not coming in. Regular people, no.

She says she knows a few people in Matamoros who are on salary, but nobody is asking them to work from home. And nobody is treating the border as a large gathering place, which it undoubtedly is. Everyone I spoke with said nobody with Customs and Border [Protection] asked how they were feeling, if they had any health concerns or anything. They just wanted to see paperwork and make sure they had a legal right to work in Brownsville.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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