Border Report: The Pandemic's Worst Month Along the Border

Border Report

Border Report: The Pandemic's Worst Month Along the Border

December has been the toughest month of the pandemic yet for both San Diego and Tijuana, and there isn’t much optimism that things will improve any time soon and more in our biweekly roundup of border news.

Health care workers with Family Health Centers of San Diego stand ready to help patients at a coronavirus testing center in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

COVID-19 has been raging on both sides of the border for weeks, and the virus shows no sign of subsiding.

San Diego reported 3,132 new coronavirus infections Sunday. It marked the 27th consecutive day with more than 1,000 cases, City News Service reports. Dr. Wilma Wooten said San Diego County is on pace to report another 600 deaths caused by the virus by the end of January. The number of people hospitalized and in critical care are also far higher than during the summer peak.December has also proven the most difficult month of the pandemic for Baja California, Zeta reports. For four weeks in a row, Radar BC reports, Baja California has seen increases in the number of deaths related to COVID-19. In the week before Christmas, the state’s Secretary of Health registered 1,646 new coronavirus cases and 238 confirmed virus-related deaths. (Note: the official numbers in Mexico are likely significantly undercounted).

Not only are hospitals in the region at ICU capacity, Proceso reports, but many people are dying even before ambulances can arrive. When people do arrive at the hospital, it is often too late, Radar BC reports. Patients are arriving with very low oxygen levels, with hosptials immediately intubating them.

The mayor of Mexicali has closed casinos because of the increase in COVID-19 cases, Radar BC reports, though the pandemic has taken a toll on all state businesses. In 17 months, Zeta finds, 21,493 businesses have closed definitively in Baja California, in part due to a lack of support from the government during the COVID-9 pandemic.

Re-Imagining the Border

The federal government runs the U.S.-Mexico border, but locals – who cross the border regularly and whose lives are shaped by it– have a different idea of how it should look and function.

I explored several ideas floated by local entrepreneurs, government officials, architects, artists and land use experts over the past few decades that re-imagine the San Diego-Tijuana border. They envision a very different border than the one we have – one that embraces the idea of the region, despite its border, as one community and natural environment.

One person I spoke with imagined that land ports of entry could have amenities like airports. Another suggested we completely re-envision the border line to be aligned with natural boundaries, like its watershed. Then there were tons of ideas about how to make transportation through and to the border more convenient, from a hyperloop that extends from Ensenada to Los Angeles, to a cross-border trolley or bike lanes through the ports of entry.

Since I’ve published the story, several other people and groups have contacted me to share some of their visions, like the Southern Border Communities Coalition’s “New Border Vision,” which provides a framework to govern the border that protects human and civil rights. For example, it describes a world in which border authorities play less of a role dictating who can cross the border, which often leads to the criminalization of some groups, and more of a role identifying people in need of humanitarian assistance and referring them to other organizations or agencies that can provide that help.

I’d love to hear more ideas of what you think should be done with the border and feature some of them in this newsletter next year. If you’ve got an idea for the border, feel free to e-mail me at maya@voiceofsandiego.org or tweet at me @msrikris. There are no boundaries for these ideas!

More Border News

  • The family of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, the first person to die in immigration custody due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Otay Mesa Detention Center, has sued the federal government and the private prison company that runs the facility. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • President-elect Joe Biden said it will take months to roll back the immigration policies put in place by President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reports. The U.S. asylum system has been broken since before Trump though. The Union-Tribune explores how it could be fixed.
  • Both the driver and a pedestrian died in a crash at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Surveillance video captured the moment the car slammed into the metal barrier at the border crossing. (NBC 7)
  • State officials have awarded $65 million to two Otay Mesa projects — a third border crossing and the widening of La Media Road — expected to reduce congestion near the border and reduce wait times at the San Ysidro and Otay border crossings. (Union-Tribune)
  • Advocates say a new section of the border fence would endanger Friendship Park at the San Diego-Tijuana border. (NPR)
  • Beaches near the border were closed yet again due to sewage-contaminated waters from Tijuana. (Union-Tribune)
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