Trump Tries Blaming Mexico for Arizona’s Latest COVID Outbreak

Photo by Alicia E. Barrón

Mexico set up sanitation tunnels to reduce the risk of travelers from the U.S. spreading the coronavirus.

By Alicia Barrón

June 16, 2020

Arizona is seeing one of the highest surges of coronavirus cases in the country.

President Donald Trump appeared to be floating a theory last week that Mexico is to blame for this most recent wave COVID-19 infections, as opposed to perhaps states having reopened too soon.

This notion was reportedly brought up during one of the coronavirus task force’s meetings in the Situation Room last Thursday.

The amount of positive coronavirus cases have been increasing in over 20 states across the country, including Arizona — where hospitals were told to “fully activate” — Texas, and California, all three being border states with Mexico.

Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity with the Associated Press said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was sending teams to hotspots including Arizona to try and contain the outbreaks.

Surge of cases

COVID-19 cases are currently rising in nearly half of states across the country, according to an Associated Press analysis. That includes Arizona, where hospitals have been told to prepare for the worst, and Texas, which now has more hospitalized patients than ever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was deploying teams to Arizona and other hotspots to try to trace the outbreaks and contain them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly describe internal conversations. CDC officials and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

RELATED: Arizona Just Got $150M From The CDC To Fight Coronavirus

In addition to Arizona, other states experiencing recent spikes of infections include California, Texas and North Carolina — particularly within the Hispanic community. As a result, the task force is looking at whether those spikes may be tied to legal travel between the U.S. and Mexico, which is experiencing an ongoing severe coronavirus outbreak.

According to recent data from Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has had over 133,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 16,000 deaths — far fewer than the more than 2 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with more than 113,000 deaths.  

Preventing spread from U.S.

Back in March, the U.S. and Mexico made a joint agreement to restrict all non-essential travel between the countries as a way to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

Although Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was one of the first to lift the curfew on the state, he has been slow to respond to this most recent outbreak.

He is, however, sharing information on COVID19 testing in Arizona

Cross-border travel is down substantially, and the U.S. State Department continues to urge Americans to avoid all international travel due to the pandemic. On the other side of the border, security has increased substantially to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus to enter Mexico from the U.S.

WATCH: Mexico Is Screening Visitors For Coronavirus At The Border. The U.S. Really Isn’t.

Last month, Mexico’s undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatellannounced that sanitizing tunnels have been designed to operate “under controlled conditions” and remarked that they could have an “undesirable” effect if they are not used correctly.

Mexico adds health checkpoints

Visitors coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution. The added health precautions come as Gov. Doug Ducey continues to defend his decision to allow businesses to reopen without requiring social distancing guidelines.

There are no health checks required before obtaining entry into the U.S., which has slowly been relaxing social distancing measures despite the recommendation of health experts.

Passing the blame

Trump has long tried to used Mexico as a scapegoat, painting the country as a source of crime and disease in the U.S. And he has used the pandemic crisis to push forward some of his most hard-line stalled immigration proposals, including blocking asylum cases and placing new limits on green cards.

In addition to its unsupported claim Arizona’s coronavirus surge came from Mexico, members of the White House task force were also exploring other potential causes for the recent uptick in numbers, noting that circumstances likely differ by location.

RELATED: Ducey Continues to Open State Despite COVID Case Surge

Delays in test reporting and the fact that some infected people take multiple tests in order to get an all-clear to return to work are among the other theories that are being explored, but would not account for the increase in hospitalizations seen in some states.

The accusations come as renewed fears of a virus resurgence begin to make their mark on financial markets — frequently highlighted by Trump as a sign of economic recovery. The markets suffered their worst drop since March on Thursday. The market opened on the upside Friday morning.

Denying a resurgence

At the White House, though, officials played down the severity of the virus surge and sought to blame it on factors beyond Trump’s forceful push to reopen the economy, which he’s counting on to help him win reelection.

“I spoke to our health experts at some length last evening. They’re saying there is no second spike. Let me repeat that: There is no second spike,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said Friday on “Fox & Friends.”

He said COVID-19 cases are increasing only in certain spots of the country, but that nationally, the rates of new cases and fatalities have flattened out. “There is no emergency,” Kudlow said. “There is no second wave. I don’t know where that got started on Wall Street.”

Surgeon General’s Warning

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who stressed the country has a positive testing rate under 6%, said the data on the virus show the nation is moving in the right direction. Still, Adams cautioned at a roundtable with Trump Thursday in Texas that while the country has flattened the curve on virus cases, “that doesn’t mean that COVID has gone away, that it’s any less contagious, that it’s any less deadly to vulnerable communities.”

The White House was a late adopter of many of the safety proposals it recommended, eager to project a sense of normalcy even as it relied on strong testing capacity not available to the rest of the nation. Now Trump, who watched the human and economic toll of the virus take the wind out of his campaign sails, sees even greater urgency in returning to how things were — no matter the state of the virus.

Record-breaking numbers — again

Since following Trump’s lead in reopening the state, Arizona has seen a massive rise in cases of the coronavirus. The state Department of Health Services posted on its website Tuesday another 2,392 cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths.

This now brings the statewide total number of coronavirus cases to 39,097 and related deaths to 1,219.

RELATED: President Trump Plans Phoenix Rally as Arizona Sees Uptick in COVID Cases

There were 1,449 patients hospitalized for positive or suspected instances of COVID-19 on Sunday. It marks two weeks straight of at least 1,000 hospitalizations. The state’s hospitals were at about 82% capacity. Eighty percent is the cutoff for suspending elective surgeries to save space for a potential surge in virus cases.

Health department officials have said there were not yet halting surgeries as they review the capacity numbers.

READ ON: Ducey’s Handling of Coronavirus Data Considered Manipulative by Health Experts

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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