Mexican nationals awaiting to get into Mexicali through the downtown Calexico port of entry are backed up on First Street, all the way to Heffernan Avenue, around 4 p.m. April 8. Calexico police were called to the scene after it was reported the crowds were not practicing mandated social distancing, police said. Apparently, Mexican customs officials started screening pedestrians heading south for signs of COVID-19, Calexico Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo said. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CALEXICO POLICE
CALEXICO — Mexican customs officials reportedly began screening southbound travelers for signs of COVID-19 on April 8 while in the pedestrian line at the downtown Calexico port of entry, causing the line of Mexican nationals to back up to Heffernan Avenue, a Calexico police official confirmed.
Those standing in the backed-up line along First Street, from the downtown port to around the bus stop on Heffernan, were not practicing social distancing, and that is why police were called, Calexico Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo said April 9.
It could not immediately be confirmed what exactly was taking place on the Mexican side of the downtown port April 9, but U.S. port officials have been made aware of the situation, Gerardo said.
Meanwhile, Chief Gerardo said he is concerned that this pedestrian backup will now be a reoccurring problem through the COVID-19 pandemic and has requested emergency funding from the Imperial County Emergency Operations Center to pay for traffic controllers or some type of immediate assistance to enforce social distancing in the line at least seven days a week.
Gerardo was told early April 9 that his request for funding or assistance would be “pushed through” as soon as possible.
The foot traffic back-up started between 2 and 4 p.m. April 8, and those in line were standing anywhere from several inches to about a couple feet apart, Gerardo said.
Social distancing, which is required in public according to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the county Public Health Officer, Dr. Steven Munday, usually means individuals are to stand about 6 feet apart.
Mexican customs officials are reportedly taking southbound pedestrian travelers’ temperatures and checking them for “three signs” of COVID, including cough and fever, Gerardo said April 9.
If they present symptoms, they are being taken to Mexicali-area clinics or hospitals, the chief explained.
None of this could immediately be confirmed from Mexican port or city officials.
This newspaper is awaiting a response from U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the pedestrian backup.
While a federal travel advisory is in place for Mexican nationals crossing the border into the U.S., those who are here to work at essential businesses, such as in farm labor or at open essential stores and restaurants, can come into the country. This story is developing.