JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — U.S. visitors are no longer being screened for COVID-19 coming into Juarez.
Checkpoints south of the Stanton Street, Bridge of the Americas and Zaragoza international crossings were taken down last week when police officers assisting medical workers were reassigned to patrol duties.
In late March, the state of Chihuahua set up the checkpoints south of eight border crossings with Texas and New Mexico. There, police officers directed traffic while nurses took motorists’ temperature and asked general questions about fever or coughs.
But a wave of drug-related violence that has gripped the state — and particularly Juarez — forced authorities to redeploy the officers.
“They were being underutilized,” Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada said on Wednesday. “Most of the personnel have been reassigned to public safety duties. We think that is the priority.”
Juarez last month reported a sharp increase in homicides and attacks on police officers. A total of 173 people were murdered in June and police classified most of those deaths as drug-related.
The checkpoints vanish just as the number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso, Texas, continues to explode. The city logged another 196 infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 6,124 since the pandemic began.
But the temperature checks and questioning of motorists had already decreased sharply before Juarez took them down. Not every motorist and passenger were being checked and only a number of vehicles were stopped in the last few weeks of the program.
Visitors “were never impeded from coming in. They were never turned back,” Cabada said. The mayor’s staff says checkpoints at other border crossings likely have or will stop operating as well.