“We are now in a position where we are working with county officials and advising them to pull back and once again reinstitute their stay-at-home orders,” Newsom said at a June 26 press conference.
Over 500 patients were forced to transfer to medical facilities outside of the county in the last five weeks, Newsom said, due to local hospitals being overloaded with the flood of new cases.
County officials gathered for an emergency meeting following Newsom’s announcement, but declined to move forward on reinforcing lockdowns.
Newsom said he will take action if county supervisors don’t make a decision soon. “If they are not able to come to some consensus, I am committed to intervening as is my role and responsibility as governor,” Newsom said.
Bordering Mexico, Imperial County remains an epicenter for COVID-19 infections, with a total of 3,334 cases per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The county’s 14-day average positivity rate has increased to nearly 23 percent of all administered tests, compared to a statewide average of only 5.3 percent. There were a total of 6,041 positive cases and 80 deaths.
Health officials point to the steep incline in positive tests as a result of the county being so close to the international border. El Centro Regional Medical Center is only half an hour north of Mexicali, which has swelled into a hotspot of the pandemic in Mexico.
“Disease does not know borders, does not know boundaries,” said Dr. Adolphe Edward, chief executive officer at El Centro Regional Medical Center, in a KPBS interview. “We’re really the community of Imperial County and Mexicali, and what happens over there comes to us, and what happens over here affects them.”
Edward noted that 60 of his employees at El Centro live in Mexicali and make the drive across the border to work every day. This is not an isolated incident, as it is the reality for thousands in the region who must also make the commute to work or school each day.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) lists Imperial as one of 11 counties on a state monitoring list for “targeted engagement.”
The CDPH suggests precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which includes: “building additional testing capacity, training and onboarding contact tracing staff, transporting patients to hospitals in neighboring counties when hospital capacity is full or limited; and, stand up support for alternative care sites.”
Some states have been quick to reestablish restrictions after a spike in new cases, including Texas, which shut down its bars.