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Part I: A Growing Concern Matt Pierce Briscoe

Coronavirus is spreading like a wildfire just across the border in Mexico. Lives are being lost to both the virus itself and increased criminal activity. Murder rates just across the border are at record high levels, according to the United States Department of Homeland Security and officials with the Mexican government.

On both sides of the border you can see and feel the impacts of coronavirus. Shops on both sides are closed and there is very limited traffic out and about. When you talk to the people one thing is clear: There is a problem.

“This is a dynamic region that is medically underserved with professional health shortages that serves a population that has pressing health and social conditions, higher uninsured rates, high rates of migration, inequitable health conditions and a high rate of poverty,” Department of Homeland Security, HHS Commission

At one of Nuevo Laredo’s busiest hospitals, patients are dying at an alarming rate. At the General Hospital Number 11, in Nuevo Laredo, medical providers say that they just do not have enough resources to handle the growing situation. They are at capacity and are overloaded as it is. Doctors here say that they are out of ventilators and there will likely be none available until the end of summer if they are lucky.

Dr. Filipe Chavez says that the ventilators are all going to the private hospitals in Mexico and that the most critical patients are not getting the medical equipment that they need. Dr. Chavez also notes how what supplies that are available for public health use are going to hospitals in places like Mexico City, where they are not accepting transferred patients.

Dr. Chavez says that many healthcare providers here are encouraging their patients to seek medical help in “other places” if they possibly can. He does not rule out having them seek medical treatment in the United States.

“I want people to live and we just do not have the resources available to help them do that so we do what we can and we advise them to do what we think is best,” Dr. Filipe Chavez

“The key is to get across the border the second that you start feeling ill or think that you might have the coronavirus,” Claudia Reyes, relief worker in Mexico.
Over 7,000 citizens of the region have already died due to coronavirus.

The CBP estimates that an estimated 1.5 million Americans live in Mexico. Most of them are retirees and can often afford to return to the States to seek medical attention. They also travel back and forth visiting families and conducting business. Customs and Border Protection officials are becoming increasingly worried that this population is bringing coronavirus into the USA.

“We see them traveling to places like Laredo, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Brownsville. When we question them we learn that they are intending to travel to those four places and our concern is that eventually they will end up infecting those local populations.” Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security says that is likely not a scenario that local health managers will end up wanting to face.

With contact tracing being so far behind in places like Texas, the DHS fears that the true impacts might not be realized. Texas currently has 2,900 contact tracers working in the state. That number falls well short of Gov. Greg Abbott’s goal of having 4,000 by June 1, 2020.

As case numbers continue to grow, health officials and federal mangers are becoming more and more concerned about the impacts at communities here in Texas. They have every reason to be.

Reporting for The Southside Light News from Nuevo León, Matt Pierce Briscoe

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Matt Pierce Briscoe for the Southside Light News in Corpus Christi, Texas.