JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The state of Chihuahua reached a grim milestone Wednesday, as the COVID-19 pandemic has now claimed more than 4,000 lives there.
The state on Wednesday reported another 16 fatalities – seven of them in Juarez. That brings the tally to 4,006 deaths and 43,027 cases since the pandemic began. Most of the fatalities and confirmed infections have been recorded in Juarez.
Still, health officials were optimistic about a sustained decrease in new cases over the past few weeks. “We have had an important decrease in new infections and an important decrease in deaths,” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the state Health Department in Juarez.
As in neighboring El Paso, Texas, where new cases have been trending down since November, most border residents on the Mexican side are now observing preventive measures such as wearing face masks in public, washing or disinfecting their hands often and, for the most part, avoiding large private gatherings.
But Valenzuela said it’s important for all residents, including those in the U.S. who cross the border to visit relatives in Mexico, to continue practicing prevention over the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays.
And while El Paso on Tuesday received its first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, there’s no word on when Chihuahua will get vaccines.
“We have not yet received vaccines, but vaccines are not everything, they’re just part of a public health strategy. The biological vaccine is not going to end the pandemic, but the vaccine that consists of prevention habits will. That’s a vaccine that will protect us from this or any future” pandemics, he said.
New infections have been decreasing so much that the City of El Paso on Wednesday announced it will allow restaurants to operate one hour longer.
All dine-in services, indoor or patio, can now be offered through 10 p.m. The previous closing time was 9 p.m.
“Because we’ve seen a downward trend in cases, even after the Thanksgiving holiday, we opted to extend dine-in services by an hour,” Mayor Dee Margo said. “I want to thank the residents and local businesses for their roles in helping reduce weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases by adhering to local emergency orders.”
But the mayor urged residents to remain vigilant over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Along those lines, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced a 5 p.m. news briefing for an update on the county’s “stay home, work safe order.”
Samaniego on Monday said he wanted to declare a Christmas and New Year’s curfew to cut down on parties and prevent another coronavirus spike.