As COVID-19 continues to infiltrate cities in San Diego County, the number of those who have died as a result of the virus also ticks upward.
But which communities have seen the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths? According to county data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, El Cajon has the highest number of coronavirus deaths when factoring in population, with 70 recorded as of July 17. When factoring in population size, the East County city had 7 deaths per 10,000 residents.
National City, where a number of outbreaks have been reported, recorded 36 death but, when factoring in population, the South Bay city closely follows El Cajon, with 6 deaths per 10,000 people.
Chula Vista, with 65 reported deaths, is third highest in the county in terms of population with two out of every 10,000 residents. Lastly, San Diego had the fourth-highest number of deaths with 152, but when factoring in population size there has been one death out of every 10,000 residents.
Dr. Robert Schooley is the Chief Epidemiologist of Infectious Diseases at UC San Diego. Schooley says the data is important as it helps inform the public and health officials where to concentrate their efforts in trying to curb the infection rate.
“A lot of people who live in these areas have jobs that don’t allow them to stay at home,” said Schooley. “Many also live in large families, so they may go to work, bring it home and give it to family members.”
Schooley says one potential reason for the high number in El Cajon is the outbreaks at local nursing homes in the East County city.
Despite that, Schooley says it is incumbent of all residents, regardless of age, to try and stop the spread and prevent the virus from infiltrating local nursing homes and communities with high numbers of people with pre-existing health conditions.
“It’s up to all of us to keep them out of harm’s way by trying to get this virus down to a low enough level in the community that our public health authorities can identify clusters and stop ongoing spread,” added Schooley.
Meanwhile, while El Cajon appears to be the standout in terms of deaths, COVID-19 does not abide by city boundaries. Nowhere is that seen more than along the South Bay, from communities such as Barrio Logan in San Diego, to National City, Eastern Chula Vista, and communities such as San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.
Maria Luis Sayago lives in Barrio Logan with her husband and five children. All seven family members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Sayago’s husband is currently fighting the virus and is bedridden.
“The pandemic packed a nasty punch for us all,” said Sayago, whose husband is an essential worker.
Added Sayago, “Unfortunately, this illness is extremely powerful. Sometimes you think this is your final moment, because it hits very hard and we are fighting for our lives.
Sayago says she hopes others will abide by social distancing orders in order to stop the spread and prevent anyone else from the potentially deadly blow that the novel coronavirus carries.
“I hope this makes others believe in this illness,” said Sayago. “I’ve seen people in my own community that don’t believe. They walk around without facemasks, without protection. This is serious.”
Now as her husband fights the disease, Sayago and her children are left to try and figure out how to pay for rent and other bills as her husband’s income from cleaning pools has completely dried up.
Added the mother of five, “We took a really tough economic and mental hit from this illness.”