The U.S. consul general in Guadalajara is taking on board guidelines issued by Mexico’s federal government and is working from home during these challenging times.
Although the diplomatic mission has suspended some of its operations and has only a skeleton staff in place at its facility in Colonia Americana, many consulate employees have set up remotely to provide important services to U.S. citizens from their homes.
In an interview this week with the Reporter, Consul General Robin Matthewman said she and her husband are taking all the necessary precautions to shield themselves from Covid-19, since they both fall into the “at risk” category.
Matthewman said her new routine has accrued some benefits, such as “cooking for the first time in many years,” and getting out some exercise tapes that she last used while stationed in Iraq.
She also stressed the importance of staying in contact with family and friends. Like many others, she is fast becoming adept at new technologies, such as Zoom, and said she recently linked up with the Jewish congregation in Lake Chapala for their Passover Seder.
With coronavirus transmission in Mexico increasing steadily, Matthewman issued a plea to all her compatriots living in this country to follow her example and “stay at home and save lives.”
The consul general urged all U.S. tourists visiting Mexico to return home, while the “opportunity is still there.” The majority of hotels in Mexico have closed, she noted, and most that have remained open are only taking bookings for clients involved in essential businesses or activities.
Flights to the United States from Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are still available but connections have decreased to just 15-20 percent in the past month, Matthewman noted.
The consul general also asked U.S. residents of Mexico to “think through their situations,” and assess whether for financial or health reasons it might be better to return home now, before the situation in Mexico worsens. “It’s fine that people plan to stay in Mexico but they should consider that it may not be easy to get back to the United States if the virus continues to spread,” she said.
However, the consul general mentioned that the Jalisco governor and the mayor of Chapala have both been in contact with her to explain that “protocols” are being put in place to ensure that foreign citizens who become infected with Covid-19 will not be left alone.
“They are taking precautions ahead of time,” she noted.
While routine services for U.S. citizens – including the regular monthly visits by consulate personnel to the Lake Chapala area – have been temporarily suspended, the consulate is open for emergency services.
“If you have to travel and have a passport that’s going to expire in the next month, we can make an emergency appointment,” said American Citizens Services Unit chief Rachel Schofer.
Schofer stressed that, as always, the consulate can be contacted “24/7” for all “life and death emergencies.”
(Schofer, who has two children aged eight and 13, is one of various U.S. foreign service officers working partly from home and the office. “It’s challenging, balancing a full-time job and family,” she said. “Luckily, I’m grateful to have a live-in nanny from a previous post.")
Meanwhile, the Federal Benefits Unit is operating normally, as employees have relocated to their homes and are working remotely, Matthewman explained.
And while the consulate has stopped issuing non-immigrant visas, applications can still be made for emergency visas, but only for essential travel. They will be considered on a “case-by-case basis,” the consul general said.
Stressing that the major goal of the U.S. consulate is to “keep everybody safe,” Matthewman urged all Americans to sign up to step.state.gov for regular, updated bulletins on the pandemic, as well as consult the covid-19 information page on the U.S. embassy website (https://mx.usembassy.gov), and keep abreast of Mexican news for the latest developments.