Soaring COVID-19 Cases Threaten to Keep US-Mexico Border ClosedBy Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Wed, 08/18/2021 - 10:58
As Mexico breaks its previous COVID-19 record hitting 24,975 cases in a single day last Thursday and an additional 7,172 new cases within 24 hours yesterday, it becomes increasingly likely that the US-Mexico border will remain closed after the August 21 extension announced by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in late July.
The agency justified its decision by citing developing circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic stating: "To decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, the US is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through August 21, while ensuring the continued flow of essential trade and travel," the department tweeted.
Border town economies, which have taken a big economic hit as previously reported by MBN, are looking at several more weeks, if not months before the US-Mexico border fully reopens. Given that the US authorities have asked border cities to reach at least 70 percent vaccination rates as a contingency to reopening, Mexico and US business’ dependent on Mexican labor are running against the clock trying to ramp up vaccination efforts in northern Mexican states.
This news is particularly bad for US border economic centers that are highly dependent on Mexican nationals. Already, according to an investigation by Rice University’s Baker Institute Center, the economic impact on these economies on the US side could amount to at least US$10 billion in losses. A March report from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) estimates that the region has already lost over 80,000 jobs and US$3.4 billion in economic activity. Texas communities anticipate a loss of US$4.9 billion in total GDP, according to regionally specific data from Rice University.
In contrast, Mexican business’ in northern states continue to see sales increase as the border closure continues to force people who regularly did their shopping in the US to shop domestically. According to the Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (CONCANACO), between March 2020 and July 2021 commerce on the Mexican side grew in some sectors by up to 40 percent, equivalent to MX$45 billion (US$2.25 billion) in added domestic consumption. Whether Mexicans continue shopping domestically after the border reopens, however, remains to be seen.
For now, border town economies along the 3,220-kilometer-long US-Mexico border should anticipate the DHS to extend its non-essential travel restrictions beyond August 21 and ramp up vaccination efforts in Mexico if they hope to see the border open up this year.