San Luis, Arizona’s location at the U.S.-Mexico border place it at the center of many issues. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, city leaders are working to educate the public about safety measures, in both English and Spanish.
That includes limiting travel back and forth across the border to “essential travel” only. Mayor Gerardo Sanchez, whose day job is as a physician’s assistant, spoke to KAWC about how the border town is handling the situation.
San Luis was the first city in Yuma County to declare a local state of emergency on March 13. Yuma and Somerton issued declarations on March 15.
Mayor Sanchez said there has been a drastic decline at the once bustling San Luis Port of Entry.
"Before if you wanted to go to Walmart (in San Luis) from Mexico you were allowed," he said. "Now you have to be specific. Where are you going? If you have a medical appointment, you need a doctor’s note."
If you are a U.S. citizen or have an ag visa, there are no problems.
"What’s really recommended is keeping travel to a minimum," Sanchez said. "We are not closing the border. Let me clarify that. For ag workers, they can cross because theirs is an essential job. But at the same time we want to be safe and secure our resource, which is the hospital.”
Sanchez works at a primary care center in San Luis operated by Yuma Regional Medical Center.
"We’re on the front lines," he said." We’re seeing patients.
Sanchez said the first case of COVID-19 in San Luis was confirmed to be a San Luis resident.
"It’s here," he said. "It’s in Yuma. There’s been a case confirmed in San Luis Rio Colorado. There’s a lot of cross border traffic here. The key is not to panic but to have a plan."