JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Three days before its public servants return to work and U.S.-run factories resume some activities, Juarez recorded its largest increase to date in COVID-19 fatalities.

The death count Friday morning stood at 152, compared to 133 on Thursday, and the number of cases confirmed through PCR tests increased from 583 to 615, Chihuahua state health officials said. The number of confirmed cases in the state also reached the 1,000-mark. From Wednesday to Thursday, the number of fatalities in Juarez had increased only by five.

Health officials attributed the spike in deaths to various factors: Juarez is at the peak of the pandemic, more testing is being done and many undiagnosed, asymptomatic patients are infecting others in the community.

This screenshot from a Facebook Live shows Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, Chihuahua state health department director in Juarez, displaying a chart showing the COVID-19 pandemic is peaking in the state right now. (Facebook: Gobierno de Chihuahua Zona Norte)

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, health department director in Juarez, estimates a total of up to 7,000 diagnosed and undiagnosed COVID-19 cases in the state.

El Paso, Texas, meantime, Thursday night reported 151 new cases to bring its COVID-19 case total to 1,607 with 43 fatalities.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador earlier this week dropped the bombshell that Mexico would be reopening its economy on June 1 and that some services and essential industrial activity would resume on Monday. He provided states like Chihuahua where COVID-19 is just peaking an escape clause in the form of a “red light, green light” system to restrict or relax activity based on how they’re faring with the disease at any given time.

Dr. Mirna Beltran, deputy health director in Chihuahua, said a committee is crafting a plan to outline how the economic reopening will take place in Juarez and the rest of the state. She said those guidelines would be made public on Monday.

However, Mayor Armando Cabada has already told 50% of his municipal workforce to return to their duties on Monday, and some maquiladora operators are under the impression they can open at 25% capacity on Monday.

This screenshot from a Facebook Live shows Chihuahua State Health Undersecretary Mirna Beltran saying businesses in Juarez will be given clear rules on Monday for a phased-in reopening. (Facebook: Gobierno de Chihuahua Zona Norte)

“It will be a phased-in resumption of activity. The number of workers and work-hours must be modified. There must be strict control of those who come in and out. […] There must be continuous cleaning of the premises and social distancing observed,” Beltran said on Friday.

And although previously he’d said Chihuahua could start trending down in COVID-19 contagion by May 20, Valenzuela now says the apex of the pandemic will happen in the next two days.

“When we trend down, we must be very careful at work and in our daily activity to avoid a relapse and have a new rise in contagion,” he said.

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