EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Thousands of employees returned to work this morning at U.S.-run maquiladoras in Juarez, Mexico, under new safety protocols to stem additional COVID-19 outbreaks.
This includes the use of face masks, temperature-taking and mandatory handwashing upon entry into the plants, as well as reconfigured workspaces to preserve social distancing.
“We are all afraid. Only God knows if we […] will become infected or not,” said a woman who waited for a bus that would take her to one of the Juarez factories where she works.
Another worker, who declined to give his name, said he’s going back to work due to financial hardship. Most of the U.S.-run plants sent their workers home in March and April at half pay or at full pay but without attendance, punctuality and transportation bonuses that nearly double their pay.
“I don’t think we’re prepared to go back in. (But) it’s good and it’s bad because money is scarce, it’s not enough,” the man said.
The automotive parts and aerospace component factories were allowed to recall 30 percent of their workforce under Mexico’s “red light, green light” protocol, which limits activity according to changing infection and hospitalization rates.
On Monday, Juarez remained under a “red light,” which means only essential activities were allowed. Everyone else was supposed to stay at home, yet thousands of vehicles and hundreds of people could be seen on city streets.
Mexican health officials admit the reopening of maquiladoras and some government offices likely will result in additional COVID-19 cases. “Increased mobility will result in more personal contact and additional cases. This will not be immediately reflected,” as the incubation period for the coronavirus is 2-14 days, said Mirna Beltran, undersecretary of health in Chihuahua.
Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral encouraged plant managers to comply with limitations as to the number of employees they can have on the premises as well observe the new safety rules.
He said social distancing rules remain in effect in the state, which borders Texas and New Mexico, and the use of face masks is mandatory. Buses this morning were still running at 50 percent capacity under the state rules.