NOGALES, Ariz. — For people across the country dropped mask mandates and lax social distancing rules have returned a sense of normalcy to live.
In Nogales, Arizona things still look very different than they did pre-pandemic and the mayor says they may never go back to normal.
Arturo Garino says his town is still deeply feeling the strain of COVID even though almost all his residents are vaccinated.
"Well, we're close to 89% here," Garino said.
The big issue he says, is the extended restriction of cross-border travel from Mexico. It was set to end Wednesday July 21st, but was delayed for a month by Homeland Security.
"Every month is the same thing," Garino said. "You know, they tell us its going to be extended to the 21st of every month and a day or two before that day gets here they tell us they're going to extend it again."
He said the closure is causing severe damage to businesses on the U.S. side of the Mexican border and some businesses may never bounce back.
"Some people are saying that the businesses across the line are doing so well that we might not get that influx of people coming across when they do open it, the way we expected," Garino said.
That's because non-essential travel is allowed to Mexico, just not into the United States.
"Why is it that we can go over there and come back with no problem but they can't come over here?" Garino asked. "So if it's COVID related why don't they put a stop both ways and say 'you know what, you're at 87% - 89% why come to Nogales, Sonora. We're not even close to that."
For Nogales, that border restriction means pivotal cross-border shopping isn't happening.
"I don't know what their priorities are," said Garino. "But we do need the border to be open."
Now, Garino fears some of the shopping that used to come to his town won't come back, and some businesses are making the switch, too.
"Yes, some of the some of the businesses that were downtown I understand them already moved to Nogales, Sonora," Garino said. "So, they're there already. I don't think they're coming back."
The mayor says he just wants a reason for the continued restriction and a heads up if it comes again next month.
"Now I don't even wait for anybody to tell me if its going to be open next month," Garino said. "I don't believe anybody."
Non-essential travel to the border is currently set to continue until August 21st, 2021.