EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than 54,000 people have signed an online petition to cancel next month’s Juarez Fair over COVID-19 concerns.
The petition on change.org comes days after Juarez city officials approved funding for the music and entertainment event that prior to the pandemic hosted more than 400,000 visitors, many of them from El Paso. The state of Chihuahua also green-lighted the event despite public grumblings from business and civic groups.
“We would like that the Feria Juarez 2021 not take place in August 2021 because there are still many COVID-19 infections on the border … we believe this event would increase the number of cases and we would not advance in controlling the pandemic, but go backwards,” according to Ciudadanos Juarenses Comprometidos, the group sponsoring the petition.
Mayor Armando Cabada last week led the push for approval of the fair, which was canceled in 2020 over similar health concerns. The mayor said Juarez and El Paso vaccination rates are high enough that the event can take place as long as masks are worn, social distancing is observed, and antibacterial gel is widely available on the premises.
But those who’ve signed the petition disagree.
“The city government should be more prudent and safeguard the community. The city is not ready to host mass events and our hospitals are not prepared for a new spike in infections,” said Edgar Acosta, one of the petitioners.
The city as of Friday was standing firm on holding the event and has released a list of performers for the Aug. 12 to 29 event at Plaza de la Mexicanidad, the fairgrounds where the “Big Red X” stands.
Still, business groups say the fair could be a “high risk event.”
“Our concern is that if (COVID-19 cases spike), they’re going to impose restrictions on businesses and that will be the end for many bars and restaurants. That is not fair,” said Thor Salayandia, president of the Entrepreneurial Coordinating Council of Juarez.
If city authorities insist on having the fair, profits should go not to the contractor, but be used for more vaccines or public works, he said.
Juarez City Councilor Enrique Torres said sufficient health protocols are in place for La Feria to take place.
“We can do this if we follow the rules. The city needs it and people have been locked up for too long. I know many families are frustrated,” he said, adding that “it’s good that merchants are showing concern for people’s safety, it shows the pandemic has changed people’s mentality, and that is good.”