County officials warn of possible danger once COVID border restrictions are lifted - News 11's Arlette Yousif reports
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Yuma County's COVID numbers remain low and manageable while vaccine availability is abundant. However, our unique location and proximity to the U.S. and Mexico border present real concern over possible setbacks once COVID border restrictions are lifted.
There are many unknowns when it comes to traveling in and out of Mexico, especially given the current COVID climate in our neighboring country.
The timeline of when non-essential travel to Mexico will resume is still undetermined, but it directly impacts Yuma County.
"We’re not totally out of the woods here. The way we are sitting as a border area puts us in a very difficult situation because if they open up the border, which it’s been restricted so far, we’re going to get an inflow of people who may or may not be vaccinated," says Yuma County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tony Reyes.
Mexico has a level four travel health notice by the centers for disease control and prevention. Meaning the country still has a “very high level of COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is undetermined when COVID travel restrictions will be lifted. But progress within Yuma County continues to move in the right direction.
"We’ve approximately vaccinated about 171,000 individuals of Yuma County. Of those, approximately 80,000 have been fully vaccinated," explains Yuma County Public Health Services District Director Diana Gomez.
And COVID vaccine supply is abundant.
"There’s been a decrease in testing around the County, but also our positivity rate has gone down. We’re hovering around 2%. So we’re making progress. The vaccine is safe and effective and readily available at most pharmacies throughout the County, at different clinics," says Gomez.
Stored at the right temperature, COVID vaccine shelf-life is still only around 6 months. Unused vials go to waste if they are not used before the expiration date. But county officials want to share.
"Hopefully, our petition to share some vaccines with our counterparts across the border, especially vaccine that may expire, it’s really an idea that’s taken hold and hopefully, we get some faster response from the federal government," explains Reyes.
Ultimately, the federal government will determine if this will happen, although it’s been a slow communication process. Reyes is hoping Governor Doug Ducey helps speed up the correspondence. COVID relief funding is also being monitored.
"Right now, we’ve all transitioned into managing the federal resources. So as you all figure out how to use the federal resources that have come down here, we are using our forum to bring managers together to talk about best practices. We’re also looking at accountability requirements downstream," says County Supervisors Association Executive Director Craig Sullivan.
The County plans to properly handle COVID vaccine supply and pandemic relief funding so that there is minimal waste all around.