The only two hospitals in California's Imperial County near the U.S. Mexico border this week found themselves dealing with a flood of patients believed to have COVID-19.
Under such a strain, the hospitals are telling new patients suffering from the novel virus to look elsewhere for care.
Dr. Adolphe Edward is CEO of the El Centro Regional Medical Center, one of the hospitals hit with a rush of patients, says many were coming from Mexico.
"We believe they are coming from Mexicali but they are not Mexican nationals, they are U.S. citizens. They are coming to us because unfortunately there was an announcement, or our understanding is that the hospitals there are not accepting COVID patients."
In El Centro, the main city in Imperial County, which is about 100 miles east of San Diego, Edward said his 161-bed hospital, ended up with 65 COVID-19-positive patients from Monday night’s influx, while the smaller hospital nearby admitted 28.
Since the outbreak began, Imperial County has registered fewer than 800 known coronavirus infections and just 15 deaths.
By comparison, the Mexican state of Baja California has reported nearly 3,500 cases and 134 deaths.
The head of the Red Cross in Mexicali, Baja California's capital, told Reuters its two main medical centers are quote “saturated” by the outbreak and that at times ambulances have had to wait hours to deliver patients.
The move by the two hospitals in Imperial County comes just a week after a Reuters report revealed U.S. officials voiced concern that an outbreak in Mexico could send a wave of dual citizens over the border, putting extra strain on American hospitals.