Let's Protect Each Other to the End of the Pandemic
Last updated 2/10/2021 at 9:33am
We are not out of the COVID woods, yet. We cannot “return to normal.” Residents are still rightly concerned about exposure to COVID-19, especially in areas of our town where visitors have been gathering in groups, not wearing masks or social distancing. Most of our shops and restaurants have been following a myriad of COVID safety regulations scrupulously and have not allowed people to enter their facilities without masks. However, little, if any, enforcement has been evident at outdoor gatherings with many not wearing masks or social distancing. Such behaviors put all of us at risk of infection.
We cannot attribute with certainty the COVID-19 cases experienced by residents to such behaviors. However, trends in our case load parallel such exposures. Our first 17 cases of COVID-19 were reported last spring. Then the heat of summer limited gatherings by year-round residents, seasonal residents left town and few visitors came. During the summer, Borrego Springs only had three new cases, which became inactive. So, Borrego Springs was COVID-free for most of the summer. But when residents began circulating more, and when seasonal residents and visitors began to return between mid-October and mid-November, our case load increased from 20 to about 60 cases. Then our case load doubled to almost 120 cases during two surges following Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years, when residents travelled and gathered, and when visitors came in big numbers. During those holidays, we had about 40 active COVID cases in town at any one time. That has tailed off to the point that we had 19 active cases on Jan. 24. This is a cautionary tale with implications for how to get though the remainder of the pandemic with as little harm as possible to our health and to the viability of our businesses and civic organizations.
Experts are warning that there may be one more surge of infections by March primarily due to the mutant forms of the virus which spread much more quickly. The Stay-at-Home Public Health Order has been lifted. We are now operating under the requirements of the purple tier. So how can we best protect ourselves, our family, friends and our fellow residents? We can each continue to limit gatherings and wear masks and social distance when around non-household members. While we wait for enough of us to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, that is the best form of protection under individual control.
The Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force will continue to encourage these protections and will continue to work with our businesses and civic organizations to get their customers to use such protections, but the Task Force does not have enforcement authority.
The Task Force has been supported financially by the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund since last March. The Task Force is comprised of volunteers with expertise and experience in various disciplines relevant to promoting COVID-safe practices.
In addition to providing information and public persuasion, the Task Force has been and will continue to be in frequent contact with San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond’s health policy staff, leaders in the County Department of Public Health of the programs for testing, tracing and vaccination, as well as leaders in CalFire and Borrego Health, which deliver the testing and vaccinations to us. We are also working collaboratively with the Chicano Federation for the purpose of training our bilingual promotoras to go out into our Latinx community and educate our Spanish speaking population about COVID-19, testing, vaccinations, etc. We will continue to be the squeaky wheel reminding these leaders of the special needs for testing and vaccination in our remote, rural town with large populations of elderly and low income residents.
How can we work together to be even more effective? Here is one example: The Task Force worked with Borrego Health, which established a waiting list for residents wanting to be vaccinated.
Since Jan. 22, more than 900 residents have called the Clinic and signed up. What can you do now? If you aren’t on the list, you can call the Clinic (760-767-5051). You can call Supervisor Desmond’s office (619-531-5555) to let him know that 900+ eligible residents of Borrego Springs are signed up waiting to be vaccinated but we need the County to ship more vaccine to Borrego Springs. The Supervisor recently told us he will promote our case for more vaccine, but your calls will give him more evidence of our need.
The County is (we think optimistically) projecting that the County population will not be vaccinated to a level that achieves herd immunity until July 1. If we continue to protect each other and advocate for getting more testing and vaccine delivered here, Borrego Springs may emerge sooner and with less damage from the scourge of COVID-19.
– Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force
Bruce Kelley, Martha Deichler, Diane Johnson, Betsy Knaak, David Leibert, Caroline Manildi
Supported by the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund