Coronavirus pandemic doesn't stop Arizona border wall construction: report

Coronavirus pandemic doesn't stop Arizona border wall construction: report
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The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped the construction of the border wall on the Arizona border, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Work crews for the wall have flooded Arizona, particularly in the town of Ajo, filling hotels, motels, Airbnbs and mobile home camps. In the meantime, other states across the country shut down nonessential construction as they continue to grapple with the pandemic. 

The Trump administration has said the wall will stop the spread of the virus into the U.S. from Mexico, although health experts say a barrier would not limit the outbreaks already occurring in the U.S., the Times reported. 

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Residents in Ajo expressed concern to the Times about the increase of workers in the area, worrying that the higher number of people makes the town more susceptible to an outbreak. Some health experts have said the density of workers could cause the virus to spread across the U.S. when the workers return to their families. 

“This administration’s priority is to get the wall done. The rest of us might as well be damned,” Ajo resident Maria Singleton told the Times, adding that she saw 22 construction trucks one day.

Raini Brunson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement obtained by the Times that the agency follows “government and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC guidelines” as it continued construction.

“As the guidance changes, decisions will be made as to how contractor employees will be affected,” Brunson added.

Kiewit Corporation, a Nebraska-based company that has contracts to build the wall near the town and elsewhere, told the Times that it has made efforts to protect workers during the virus outbreak. Spokeswoman Angela Nemeth said the company has not confirmed any cases of coronavirus among its workers on the border wall.

“This is an unprecedented situation, and we are updating our policies, procedures and guidance to workers daily as the situation evolves,” Nemeth said.

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The Hill reached out to the Customs and Border Patrol’s regional office in Arizona. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Monday issued a stay-at-home order for the state, allowing people only to leave their residence for food, medical reasons, exercise or “essential” reasons. New York, Washington state, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have all halted nonessential construction, but some construction in Florida, California and Missouri carries on.

The president during his campaign promised to build 1,100 miles of border wall. The Department of Homeland Security has announced it would build or replace more than 91 miles between Arizona and Mexico and 86 miles between other states and Mexico.

Arizona has counted 1,289 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 24 deaths, including 202 cases and six deaths in Pima County where Ajo is located.