EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Two days after El Paso reinstated its indoor mask mandate, authorities across the border in Juarez relaxed occupancy rules across the board. 

Juarez and the entire state of Chihuahua are now under a “green” COVID-19 threat level, which means businesses and mass-gathering venues such as churches and movie theaters can operate at 75% capacity. The factories that employ more than 300,000 Juarez residents have been operating at 80% to 100% percent since Monday, with occupancy determined on whether the products they make are essential or non-essential. 

Eighteen months after the pandemic hit the border, “we remain standing,” Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said during the weekend. “The numbers are stable compared to last year despite the (variants) in the pandemic. […] The cities that had the most cases are under control, particularly Juarez, where vaccinations and other safeguards have been successful despite increased mobility and the resumption of recreational activities.” 

Juarez has reported 34,394 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, including 67 new cases on Monday. Binational health experts say the real numbers are likely much higher because Juarez for a long time only tested symptomatic patients. That city has reported 3,868 deaths. 

Public schools in Juarez resumed in-person classes last week, despite protests by some parents and pediatricians. Mexico is still not vaccinating minors against the coronavirus. 

El Paso has recorded 2,763 COVID-19 deaths and 142,713 positive tests. That includes 629 new cases and five new fatalities reported today for CDC week 35.    

As of last Saturday, anyone age 2 or older must wear a face covering inside buildings except when eating, drinking, or exercising. That comes from a City-County Health Authority mandate being challenged by the State of Texas. 

El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said he’s aware of increased interaction between El Paso and Juarez residents in recent months despite non-essential border travel restrictions still in place.

“A lot of crossings take place on this side of border from people who go visit relatives in Ciudad Juarez and also a lot of U.S. citizens and residents in Juarez cross into El Paso,” he said.

Ocaranza said he’s glad to see that COVID-19 infection numbers are going down in Juarez, which is leading to a relaxation of restrictions.

“Nonetheless, we need to continue helping in a way that once people can cross, we will be able to immunize those that request the vaccination on this side of the border,” Ocaranza said.

He echoed El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s offer to vaccinate Juarez residents who come across once the U.S. and Mexico lift the travel restrictions.

“It will be a very narrow vision if we only think as one city. How we’re going to achieve better control as a region? That includes participation of people on both sides of the border,” he said.