COVID shelter opens in Reynosa

Migrants sick with COVID-19 now have a shelter where they will be able to quarantine in Reynosa as of this week.

On Thursday, about 200 migrants who were living at an encampment at a plaza two blocks away from the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge were taken to receive testing at a nearby shelter.

Dozens of people waited in groups inside Senda de Vida, Reynosa’s largest migrant shelter, where medical volunteers with a nongovernmental organization, Global Response Management, administered the tests.

A young girl hugged her teddy bear as she pulled down her mask and let Trishna Pratap, a nurse with GRM, swab her nose and screen her for COVID-19. Most tests went this way with children, mothers, some pregnant, and men fully cooperating.

A young boy, however, cried, hugging his toy truck and refusing to get tested, but three volunteers helped swab his nose with the mother’s consent.

Florentina, a 55 year-old Honduran mother, sat in a wheelchair pushed by her son, Jimmy, 15, and waited patiently for their test results. A stroke six years ago left her right arm paralyzed and impaired her speech.

A doctor with GRM, Laurie Costello, helped address other medical needs they’ve been experiencing after living at the plaza since the start of August.

The mother and son crossed into the U.S. hoping they would be able to seek asylum, but Jimmy said they were sent back to Mexico, like thousands of others who have been subject to expulsion under a federal public health code enforced during the onset of the pandemic.

Florentina’s medical condition left her vulnerable in a place crowded with tents, makeshift beds, cots, and a patchwork of tarps where thousands wait for a chance to enter into the U.S. again.

Up until this week, families who were sick with the virus were mostly untested and forced to live their fate with little medical attention at the encampment.

Last week, the Sidewalk School, Angry Tias & Abuelas, and Senda de Vida began looking for a place to settle the COVID-19 shelter. While the property they initially considered was rent-free, it lacked infrastructure that would’ve delayed its opening.

This week, the NGOs settled on a new site where they will be able to house up to 50 families. So far, about 225 people have been tested. Those who test positive will be quarantined at the shelter.

Migrants who tested negative for COVID-19 were allowed to stay at Senda de Vida.

Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, a cofounder of Sidewalk School, explained those who test positive have the option to be quarantined. Those who choose to stay will be fed at the site three times a day through combined NGO efforts.

The shelter is the latest financial responsibility the U.S.-based NGO has shouldered.

The Sidewalk School has three schools in Reynosa that provides education to migrant children waiting on the border, and they spend thousands of dollars buying COVID tests shared with the migrant shelters in Reynosa who use them to screen families seeking to stay.

Rangel-Samponaro plans to stop using the new COVID shelter when the need declines. But for now, they are concerned about funding.

Donations can be contributed via the Sidewalk School’s website, at or the website for Angry Tias & Abuelas,