EL CENTRO — City council members had yet to reach a decision during an emergency meeting Tuesday, June 30, in response to the governor’s recommendation to scale back reopening efforts and reinstitute stay-at-home orders in Imperial County.
El Centro Fire Chief Kenneth Herbert reported Imperial County officials met with the State of California officials to propose actions to mitigate COVID-19.
Some of the proposals were to continue reinforcing and educating the community of what was already in place, such as use of face coverings, closing of all non-essential businesses, allowing curbside pickup only, and limiting the number of people visiting a store to one person per family.
According to Chief Herbert, the County of Imperial is still awaiting orders from Dr. Stephen Munday, Imperial County Public Health officer. Such orders will come to fruition only after the State and the County come to a consensus.
Mayor Efrain Silva received calls inquiring about the closing of the border. However, this is not within the jurisdiction of the City of El Centro — it is a State and Federal level issue.
Council member Cheryl Viegas-Walker expressed her concern for children’s activities. With city parks closed, children — especially those who reside in apartments — have no other spaces left to play and run about.
Dr. Adolphe Edward, CEO, El Centro Regional Medical Center, reported that in an earlier meeting with Senator Ben Hueso (40th District), Chair of Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation, he gave a summary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Imperial Valley. Edward placed ECRMC on high alert February 18 — receiving its first COVID-19 patient March 8.
“We have seen a non-stop increase in cases at ECRMC since that day, including an increase in the number of cases coming from Mexico.”
According to Edward, there are over 275,000 US citizens who live in Mexicali, Mexico. It includes 30,000 retired US military veterans and thousands of green card holders. Furthermore, “60 of my own staff (ECRMC has 1,100 employees) live in Mexicali and they are essential employees.”
“Many of these folks travel to El Centro and our hospital and seek care,” Edward said. “Besides the 500 patients plus that have been transferred, we have seen over 2,000 patients since that day.”
According to Edward, ECRMC lost $2 million in the first month, February, dealing with COVID-19. Since then, the hospital had lost $4 million each month.
He expressed gratitude to the State and Federal levels for aiding during the pandemic in Imperial County. Even then, there were still issues to be resolved.
One of them is the alternate site in Imperial County that still lacks support to fight COVID-19. “We need the 80-beds to be used for high-level care so we can decant our ICU. For that reason, we continue to ask for support so we can stop relying on transferring of patients outside of the Valley.”
According to Edward, as hospitals in San Diego and across Southern California begin to fill-up with COVID patients, “our patients stay with us in the Emergency Department waiting for transfers, sometimes over the course of three days. It is not clinically acceptable.”
As we move into the fall and winter season, Edward informed council members about the usual start of the flu season beginning in September; and to get ready and be prepared for an upward trend in December and into February 2021.