America’s Salad Bowl Becomes Fertile Ground for Covid-19 - The New York Times
Because Yuma County produces the lettuce, broccoli and other leafy greens that Americans consume during the cold months, it is known as “America’s salad bowl.” Now it has become a winter hothouse for Covid-19.
Over the course of the pandemic, the Yuma area has identified coronavirus cases at a higher rate than any other U.S. region. One out of every six residents has come down with the virus.Each winter, the county’s population swells by 100,000 people, to more than 300,000, as field workers descend on the farms and snowbirds from the Midwest pull into R.V. parks. This seasonal ritual brings jobs, local spending and high tax revenue. But this year, the influx has turned deadly.Father Chapa’s parish is weathering the full spectrum of the pandemic’s surge. In Spanish and English, he ministers to Mexican-American families who have been rooted here for generations as well as the seasonal residents, all of them afflicted. The church is handling three times the number of funerals it usually does.
While coronavirus cases are starting to flatten across the country, the virus is still raging in many border communities. Three of the six metro areas with the highest rates of known cases since the outbreak began are small cities straddling Mexico: Yuma; Eagle Pass, Texas; and El Centro, Calif.
Seasonal migration, the daily flow of people back and forth and lax measures to contain the virus’s spread have created a combustible constellation. Arizona has seen among the highest increases in newly reported deaths of any state over the past two weeks — and it is not clear when this troubling trend will abate.Halfway between San Diego and Phoenix, but geographically isolated from both, Yuma has only one hospital. Understaffed and overwhelmed with cases, it has been airlifting critically ill patients to other cities. And the fallout from Christmas and New Year festivities is not over.