Nogales restaurant owner braces for border travel restrictions

Nogales businesses feel the impact of COVID-19 outbreak

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Travel across the US-Mexico border is being restricted in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions will stop all non-essential travel starting at midnight. Essential travel for education, trade and medical-related crossings is still allowed.

The owner of Machi, a Mexican-Seafood restaurant in Nogales, said COVID-19 concerns have already taken a toll on businesses around the city.

"It's kind of a ghost town right now," said Patricia Gomez. "You don't see people going through, no cars, nothing, and all of the stores are closing, so now more employees are losing their jobs."

Gomez said business at her restaurant has decreased 90% since the outbreak began. The spring season is a busy time for the restaurant with people ordering fish and other seafood for Lent. She said this year is much different. The restaurant has layed off almost all of its employees.

"Now I'm cooking and my husband is the waiter and we just have one helper," she said. "Sometimes we would have even had 10 employees."

Her restaurant is less than two miles from the border, and she expects the new travel restrictions will cause her to lose even more customers. After Friday the travel suspension will limit her ability to visit family in Mexico.

"My mother-in-law and my grandmother are on the other side," she said. "We used to cross like three or four times a week, even for the movies but right now, no."

She plans to FaceTime and talk with her family on the phone while the travel restrictions are in place

The Department of Homeland Security said the restrictions will last for 30 days and are subject to extension upon review.

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