As Arizona Cases Surge, Mexico State Next Door Wants Strict Border Closure

The top health official in Mexico's Sonora state has demanded that the region's border with Arizona be firmly closed to all non-essential travel amid a surge in coronavirus cases on the U.S. side.

Despite limits on non-essential travel between Mexico and the U.S. already being in place until at least July 21, Sonora state Health Secretary Enrique Clausen suggested on Wednesday that those limitations were not being sufficiently enforced.

"No more crossings from the United States into Mexico for visitors who do not have essential activities," Clausen said. "They should only be allowed for work or business."

Clausen's demand came as confirmed cases in Mexico continued to rise, with the country's count up to 238,511 cases by Friday, according to an online tracker maintained by the Johns Hopkins University.

So far, the country has seen at least 29,189 deaths due to the virus.

With a spike in coronavirus cases now unfolding in Arizona, where 3,333 new cases were reported on Thursday according to state data, Clausen stressed that it was crucial for Mexico to clamp down at the border to prevent a further rise in cases.

According to AP, several in Sonora state are popular with U.S. visitors seeking low-cost medical services and dental care, while tourists also travel to the state to enjoy resorts.

With the July 4th weekend underway, Mexico has yet to respond to the demand or to signal any plans to clamp down at the border.

The country's Foreign Relations Department did announce, however, that it would be screening incoming visitors from the U.S. over the weekend, including checking temperatures and questioning travelers on potential symptoms of coronavirus.

While Mexico's case count and death toll continue to rise, it is widely suspected that the country's numbers are much higher than reported, due to a lack of expansive coronavirus testing.

Asked at a daily briefing on Thursday about a Washington Post story in which he was quoted saying that about three times as many people had died in Mexico City from March through May than in past years, Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said he recognized that may be due to coronavirus.

"I recognize that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 could be much higher here—concretely, the comment was three times as many as what we present here (at daily briefings) every night. I have said that same thing on a number of occasions," Lopez-Gatell said.

A man walks past a Customs and Border Protection agent at San Ysidro port of entry on the Mexico-U.S. border as seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 21, 2020. GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty