COVID-19

Border towns struggling with virus surge

Andy Uhler Jul 17, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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