The federal government should "immediately begin medical checks" at the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern California to slow a surge of COVID-19 cases in border communities, two hospitals said Tuesday in a letter to HHS and the Department of Homeland Security.
Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare also asked the Trump administration to give the San Diego region "priority status to receive more personal protective equipment (PPE) and pharmaceutical supplies" because hospitals near the border are running low on critical supplies. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has also redirected supply shipments destined for the San Diego area to other parts of the country, straining local supply chains.
"The (Mexican) State of Baja California is reporting a rapidly increasing number of new positive cases per day with a lack of infrastructure, PPE, medication and workforce to control the spread of the virus," the letter said.
The hospitals argue that the federal government must take action to address the problem because Baja California doesn't have the capacity to do it. They also want the Trump administration "to put pressure on Mexico to enforce social‐distancing and shelter‐in‐place policies as we have done in the United States."
Even though the U.S. ban on non-essential travel went into effect last month, there were more than 42,000 border crossings as of Sunday, and they're on the rise. COVID-19 cases along the border are dramatically outpacing the rest of the region, more than doubling in less than a week in one border area. That's about four times the rate in the rest of the country.
"Public health crises do not respect borders," the letter said. "The magnitude of this regional difference is very real."
Mexico's response to the coronavirus outbreak, especially the leadership of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been panned by global health experts. The country's healthcare system has sustained significant funding cuts in recent years, leading to an exodus of qualified health professionals and capable public servants. Mexico has 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That's roughly half the hospital bed capacity of the U.S.