COVID-19

Border towns struggling with virus surge

Andy Uhler Jul 17, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
HTML EMBED:
COPY
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
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.