People with coronavirus are crossing the US-Mexico border for medical care

Coronavirus patients are showing up in emergency rooms after calling 911 through the US-Mexico border.

“They’ll literally come to the border along with call an ambulance,” says Van Gorder, president along with CEO of Scripps Health, a hospital system in southern California.

The rise in ambulance traffic through the border, which several officials described to CNN, will be a symptom of the pandemic’s spread within the region — along having a sign of the many connections between communities in both countries.

“There just will be not a wall for viruses at the border,” says Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American along with Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. “The wall will be an illusion, because the two sides are actually woven together.”

An increase in cross-border coronavirus cases, which began getting public attention in May, overwhelmed some California hospitals along with spurred the state to create a brand-new patient transfer system to help.

“the item’s an unprecedented surge across the border,” says Carmela Coyle, president along with CEO of the California Hospital Association.

within the past several weeks, more than 500 patients have been transferred to hospitals across the state through California’s Imperial County, which has the state’s highest per capita rate of coronavirus cases — along with, according to officials, has seen a large number of patients crossing through Mexico.

nevertheless Van Gorder, Coyle along with various other officials in California say that will isn’t an immigration issue.

Most of the coronavirus patients crossing the border, they say, are Americans.

In a call with state hospital leaders earlier that will month, the head of California’s emergency medical services authority, Dr. David Duncan, described the steady stream of patients coming to Imperial County as “gas on the fire.”

“We’ve got that will continual flow of Covid coming across the border within the form of US citizens that will carry along with continue to escalate along with fuel the Covid pressures that will we see,” Duncan said.

The view through the border

Officials estimate about a quarter of a million US citizens live across the border within the Mexican state of Baja California. Many work within the US along with have family members there. Some regularly go to US hospitals when they need medical attention. Others decided to cross that will time because Mexican hospitals were overwhelmed by a crush of coronavirus cases.

“What has happened as the situation has worsened on the Mexican side of the line will be that will several the US citizens are returning to the United States to seek care for Covid-19,” says Coyle of the California Hospital Association.

Officials in Mexico’s Baja California state say the number of active coronavirus cases there are today declining. nevertheless the state — which will be home to large cities like Tijuana along with Mexicali — has been hit hard by the pandemic. With more than 1,700 dead, the item’s among the Mexican states with the highest Covid-19 death tolls along with death rates per capita.
A cemetery worker takes a break through digging brand-new graves at Tijuana Municipal Cemetery 13 amid the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2020 in Tijuana, Mexico.

Sergio A. Beltrán, US Customs along with Border Protection’s officer in charge for the Calexico ports of entry, said in a statement to CNN that will he started out to see an increasing flow of people coming across the border for medical care a few months ago.

“While the item varies through day to day, along with shift to shift, we have experienced a significant increase in medical-related calls at the Calexico ports of entry that will can be directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last couple of months,” he said. “We’re definitely seeing people on a daily basis. along with we still have our regular medical-related calls that will aren’t COVID-related through people in accidents or having various other medical issues along with are coming for medical treatment within the US.”

Sometimes people walk to the port of entry or drive themselves to the border crossing, then call for an ambulance to get them to a US medical facility when they arrive. along with sometimes, he said, travelers arrive at the border in Mexican ambulances along with have already arranged for US ambulances to meet them there.

What happened in California hospitals as more coronavirus patients crossed

At El Centro Regional Medical Center in Imperial County, coronavirus cases started out to climb in early May as the situation across the border in Mexicali worsened, says Adolphe Edward, the hospital’s CEO.

“that will uptick just took a fast, escalating move,” Edward says.

At one point that will month, the 161-bed hospital saw so many coronavirus cases that will the item had to stop accepting any brand-new patients in its emergency room.

Edward says he heard first-hand through his own staff one reason the numbers were going up.

“I’ve got over 60 staff members that will travel back along with forth every day. They live in Mexicali, nevertheless they come to work here,” he says. “They told me the item took Mexicali a while to get to the point where they put (social distancing) restrictions. I think that will’s one reason why the number will be as high as the item will be today.”

The El Centro Regional Medical Center will be shown Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in El Centro, Calif.

About 0 miles to the west, Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, which will be across the border through Tijuana, was also seeing cases starting to climb.

Officials began tracking the travel histories of patients there, along with quickly spotted a trend: Many had recently been in Mexico.

“About half the patients that will are testing positive are indicating they’ve crossed the border within the previous week,” Van Gorder says.

“The patients that will cross the border appear to be sicker than the patients that will we’ve normally been seeing,” he says. “the item may be that will they waited in Mexico too long, or they went to a Mexican hospital along with decided to get their care here.”

‘the item’s almost like a waterfall cascading’

The flow of patients across the border has been steady for weeks, says Coyle of the California Hospital Association. along with today hospitals across the state — including as far north as Sacramento — are taking in coronavirus patients through Imperial County as part of a brand-new patient transfer system set up to ease the pressure, Coyle said.

A challenge across the region, she says, will be that will so many patients are sick with the same condition, requiring the same equipment for treatment, at the same time.

“that will will be what driving the shortages of service along with supply in Mexicali, driving these expats back to the United States along with then driving a very unique movement of patients into along with more broadly across the state of California,” she says. “the item’s almost like a waterfall cascading.”

People wearing face masks wait outside an emergency room in Tijuana to be tested for coronavirus in April.
Even though the US-Mexico border has been closed to all nevertheless essential travel since March, thousands of people still cross daily.

Van Gorder says he’s concerned that will officials are moving too quickly towards reopening.

“We still don’t have our arms completely around Covid along with the Covid spread,” he says. “along with as a border community, I think we have a double risk.”

On Friday Gov. Gavin Newsom said the percentage of positive coronavirus tests in Imperial County was so high that will he was recommending that will officials reinstate a stay-at-home order there. State officials have said US citizens crossing into California for medical care are among the factors driving the uptick. The governor said Friday that will “the item’s too early to tell” if the high number of cases in neighboring Arizona are also a contributing factor , adding that will a “deep dive” study by the CDC will be underway.

What’s happening in various other parts of the border

Heyman, of the University of Texas at El Paso, says there’s one thing that will’s important to remember about coronavirus — along with various other issues — along the vast US-Mexico border.

“The two sides can’t be kept separate,” he says. “If there’s a problem on one side of the border, the item flows to the various other side.”

In earlier days of the pandemic, Mexican officials expressed concern about travelers through the US bringing coronavirus into the country.

within the Mexican border city of Nogales in May, officials installed “sanitizing tunnels” that will sprayed a disinfectant solution on people who’d just come through the US.

“I don’t know what they thought they were doing,” says Arturo Garino, the mayor of the sister city on the US side of the border, Nogales, Arizona. nevertheless Garino says he’s concerned about the flow of people traveling across the border, too.

Commuters line up to cross to the United States at the San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana on June 16, 2020.

While coronavirus cases are surging, particularly in two Arizona counties along the border — Santa Cruz along with Yuma — Garino says officials haven’t pinpointed the cause.

“the item has to do a lot with social distancing. the item has to do a lot with gatherings,” he says. “along with I know a lot of residents here go into Mexico along with vice versa.”

Garino, who recently signed an order requiring people in his city to wear masks in public places, says he’s worried about the frequent cross-border travel that will’s a part of daily life there intensifying the spread of the virus.

“I’m concerned because of the spike in cases that will we have,” he says. “We’re trying to do our best to curb that will virus, along with we continuously keep on going up along with up along with up.”

CNN’s Cheri Mossburg contributed to that will report.

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