California’s Poorest County Is The State’s New Epicenter For Covid-19

California’s Imperial County is one of the poorest counties in the state, and it’s also being hit the hardest by Covid-19.

Embed from Getty Images

Adolphe Edward is the CEO for El Centro regional medical center, which is one of the only two hospitals in the entire county; which houses 181,000 California residents. He recently spoke with the media about how unequally the county has been treated during the pandemic in comparison to wealthier areas of the state.

Imperial County is a remote region that runs along the US-Mexico border. According to Edwards everyday around 15-17 residents in the county need to be airlifted to a different hospital in a wealthier part of the state to be treated for the coronavirus. The infection rate shows that more than 600 individuals per 100,000 are, on average, infected with Covid-19, making Imperial the most infected county in California. 

In regards to the constant sound of helicopters flying above the area, Edwards claims that “people are asking, ‘What’s going on? Is there a war? Yes, there is. This is a war on Covid.” More than 500 individuals have already been flown out of Imperial and most recently the county reported a record-high of 7,759 cases and 132 deaths as of this past Friday. 

“In many ways it is also a microcosm of the pandemic’s toll on communities of color across the state and nation.”

Imperial county is a rural area that stretches along California’s far south-eastern border with Mexico. The county is already known for its high poverty rates, air pollution, and low-wage employment rates. Edwards stated that Latinx individuals in California are already disproportionately impacted by the virus as they make up 39% of the states population, yet also make up 55% of the total number of Covid-19 cases and 42% of deaths due to the virus. 

Near the US-Mexico border in Imperial, these stats are even more staggering. Latinx individuals make up 85% of the population in the County and account for 95% of Covid-19 deaths. It’s also the state’s poorest county, in 2018 30% of all children within Imperial lived in poverty; this percentage is substantially larger than any other state or national average for children living in poverty. 

Childhood asthma in Imperial county is also extremely common due to the air pollution and harmful, dust-blown particles that are evaporated from the highly polluted Salton Sea. Luis Olmedo is an individual who has been monitoring the air quality and pushing local and state officials to do something about it. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, but we’ve been dealing with epidemics of cancer, asthma, and diabetes for a long time. If there was a poster of a place where Covid thrives, this is it.”

Embed from Getty Images

The high rates of diabetes, asthma, cancer, and obesity make Imperial a massive breeding ground for Covid-19, as we know, the virus is much more deadly for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. Edwards also personally believes that residents who have been more relaxed about the coronavirus and continuing to travel out of state are causing it to spread rapidly within the county, as they lack the essential medical resources to curve the spread. 

Edwards also claims to have spoken with multiple patients who are farm workers, noting that these essential employees are working in harsh conditions, travelling in close corridors on public transport to get to their jobs, and have been denied a majority of PPE resources due to lack of funding and energy from the state government. 

The crisis in Imperial county is a major reflection on how the state of California, and many other states in America, have ignored all the warnings from the world’s health professionals and continued to see a massive rise in cases. The reopenings of businesses, restaurants, beaches, retail establishments, etc. has directly led to a rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths, and yet many states remain open.

David Trujillo, advocacy director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties recently claimed that “we [the ACLU] want to make sure that we meet the needs of the most vulnerable residents. If we do that, then we meet the needs for everyone.” While it’s up to our governments to enforce the lockdown procedures that our world’s healthcare professionals are urging us to take, as individuals we can continue to do our part as much as possible to curve the spread. Wear a mask in public, stay inside unless absolutely necessary, and wash your hands often and vigorously, we’re all in this together unless we aren’t.

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.