Border Report: Officials Worry About Cross-Border Cases as Coronavirus Slams Tijuana - Voice of San Diego

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Border Report: Officials Worry About Cross-Border Cases as Coronavirus Slams Tijuana

Tijuana factories are continuing to churn out protective gear and ventilator parts as hospitals in the city are overwhelmed. In the U.S., the parts of the county closer to the border are having a different experience than those farther north.

San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

South San Diego County and hospitals in Chula Vista have been hit harder with coronavirus cases than the northern parts of the county.

“Are those cases spilling over from Tijuana?” said San Diego County Public Health Office Wilma Wooten at a press conference Friday. “It’s quite possible they are. … We are trying to work with jurisdiction of Baja California to help donors provide resources there so they can better address the COVID-19 in their region.”

Chris Van Gorder, chief executive officer of Scripps Health, said that while 6 percent to 7 percent of novel coronavirus tests administered across the Scripps system have been coming back positive, the rate is 17 percent at Scripps Chula Vista, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

“Speculating – which I don’t like to do – I would think it has to do with cross-border traffic because there is no reason or evidence I know of to indicate that the Chula Vista community is behaving any differently than the rest of the county,” Van Gorder told the Union-Tribune.

A new task force examining cases near the border had its first meeting recently.

“We have laid out some steps to look at the impact of increasing cases in Tijuana specifically and those are quite near the border,” said the county’s epidemiology director, Dr. Eric McDonald, at the press conference. “We think that a component of the increase of cases in the Chula Vista hospitals is proximity to the border, but investigating that more thoroughly so we can come up with good containment strategies and mitigation strategies is the focus of this task force.”

Baja California has experienced some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases of any state in Mexico, according to Mexico’s secretary of health.

Border crossings have fallen significantly since the federal government restricted recreational and tourist border crossings in March but crossing for medical visits is still considered “essential” and is allowed. There are also still thousands of people continuing to cross for trade and other essential purposes.

Border restrictions were extended last week, but it seems overwhelmingly clear that neither Tijuana nor San Diego will be able to contain the coronavirus in isolation.

Tijuana’s Hospitals Struggle as City Factories Make Equipment for the Rest of the World

In Tijuana, factory workers are cranking out masks, protective gear and ventilator parts to address the global demand created by the coronavirus, but hospitals in the city are facing dire shortages themselves, Bloomberg reports.

Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla says doctors there are “dropping like flies.” One Tijuana doctor told Bloomberg that he even turned to hunting for masks in San Diego.

But doctors and nurses in the state say their pleas for additional security measures, training and protocols during the pandemic have been ignored by state officials, including Bonilla, Zeta reports.

Hospitals are “a war zone” and on the brink of collapse, Telemundo reports. Doctors and nurses one Tijuana hospital from told the Union-Tribune that often by the time they get test results back, their patients are already gone.

López-Gatell warned that the devastation from the virus might be more acute in the northern border states in part because so many factories have continued to operate, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Bonilla has said he will close factories that will not sell equipment to Mexican hospitals and indeed, the state recently closed a U.S.-owned plant for refusing to sell ventilators to Mexican hospitals, AP reports.

Coronavirus Spreads in Otay Mesa Detention Center

The Otay Mesa Detention Center has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers in the United States.

As of the end of last week, 18 ICE detainees, nine U.S. Marshals Service inmates, 10 CoreCivic employees and eight medical staff have tested positive for the virus, the Union-Tribune reports.

The Union-Tribune uncovered that when detainees requested masks, they were asked to sign a contract that would absolve CoreCivic of responsibility if they fell ill once they were given the masks, and threatened with pepper masks after refusing to sign. Detainees in several units in the detention center say they began hunger strikes because of their concerns for their safety.

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