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Mexico currently struggles to control the COVID-19 pandemic, with a spike of around 1,000 cases between Monday and Tuesday alone. The border is closed to all non-essential travel, but even those crossing the border see little screening before officials allow passage. Border officials take temperatures only if drivers exhibit clear symptoms.
Illegal border crossings have dropped – by as much as 50 percent according to the Washington Post – but essential workers and dual citizens continue to move back and forth across the border.
Dennis Amundson, director of the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital, told ABC News that roughly 48 percent of their patients recently crossed the border.
“Talking to the people on the wards reveals that there seems to be a lot either living or working on both sides of the border,” Amundson said.
The situation is similar to that of the U.S. and Canada, which sees thousands of workers regularly commuting from Ontario to Detroit, where they work in the hospitals.
Scripps Hospital System confirmed that it has started to send patients to hospitals in the northern part of San Diego County in California after the number of new patients overwhelmed hospitals closest to the borders. The county has risen to the third-most cases in California, with its deaths rising accordingly.
The number of cases in Mexico has spiked lately, with the country nearing 100,000; it counted more than 3,000 new cases a day in the past few days.
The World Health Organization last week labelled South America the “new epicenter” of the global pandemic. A mixture of political unrest – and in the case of Brazil, outright denial by President Jair Bolsonaro – has led to a number of new cases rising sharply, rapidly overtaking many other countries.
Brazil recently overtook Spain and Italy, previously viewed as the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, in total confirmed cases. Brazil is closing in on half a million cases, after a spike of more than 26,000 on Thursday.
President Trump said during a briefing Thursday that the U.S. was sending ventilators to Mexico, as well as Brazil. He also recently announced an extension to the travel ban between the countries.
“Mexico is having a very, very hard time, as you know, with COVID, especially along the border, with Tijuana and various places along the border,” Trump said.
Despite the escalating crisis, Mexico plans to go ahead with reopening for business over the next week.