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COVID-19

Border towns struggling with virus surge

Andy Uhler Jul 17, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A man in Texas waits for a bus to take him across the border to Mexico. Travel and commerce are down in the area. Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Border towns struggling with virus surge

Andy Uhler Jul 17, 2020
A man in Texas waits for a bus to take him across the border to Mexico. Travel and commerce are down in the area. Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images
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Federico Schaffler lives in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but drives across the border to Laredo, Texas, for work every day. 

He just got word that there’s a curfew at home right now, and people can get fined if they don’t wear a face mask while driving.

“On the U.S. side, I haven’t heard beyond that if you’re by yourself in your car, you probably can have your mask down, but if you have two or three people, then you have to have your mask on,” he said.

Schaffler is the director of the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development at Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

He said cross-border shopping is a lifeblood for the area. 

In normal times, the southern border of the United States is very fluid. People live and work on both sides, and many travel back and forth every day. But people who want to cross just to buy stuff aren’t allowed to do that right now.

In the U.S., different rules from cities, counties, states and the feds have made controlling the coronavirus pandemic difficult. In border towns, there’s also direction from two countries.

“The pedestrian bridge is reduced by 60, 70%. Vehicular traffic, noncommercial assets, reduced by easily 30, 40, 50%,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said.

According to Saenz, eight people died of the coronavirus in Laredo hospitals Thursday, a record for the city. 

He said the state allowed businesses to open too soon.

“What happened is we lowered our guard here, and people started not using their masks,” he said.

Schaffler said navigating this time isn’t going to be easy for a lot of businesses.

“I really don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I think it’s going to change a lot of things.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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