The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation Board is calling for swift action from the Coachella Valley's business and educational leaders to protect residents from COVID-19, as hospital admissions dramatically increase across Riverside County due to the Delta variant.
On Tuesday, July 27, the Board strongly recommended full vaccination for employees and all eligible students returning to campus for in-person learning, as well as recommended that everyone wears a mask in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status.
These community health and safety recommendations would remain in place until a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent is reached in the valley, according to a report from the Healthcare District and Foundation. More than 238,000 people have been fully vaccinated so far, but an additional 106,707 individuals must be fully vaccinated to accomplish this goal.
District and Foundation CEO Conrado Bárzaga said the call to action is the Healthcare District's "ethical obligation" during a pandemic that has taken more than 600,000 Americans' lives, while acknowledging the public agency lacks the regulatory authority to implement the requirements on its own. He said, "By elevating awareness of the importance of vaccinating everyone, we hope we can have the necessary conversations with our partners -- and those who aren't our partners -- to encourage and mobilize residents who remain unvaccinated."
During the past 16 months of the pandemic, the Coachella Valley has seen 51,525 COVID-19 cases and 1,002 deaths in the region, the report shows. Nearly one-third of valley residents who are eligible to receive a vaccine -- an estimated 139,000 individuals -- remains unvaccinated.
Here's the breakdown of the valley's highest unvaccinated populations by age group:
12-17 years old (68.12 percent unvaccinated)
18-24 (47.30 percent unvaccinated)
25-44 (50.65 percent unvaccinated)
The report also includes the valley communities/cities with the highest infection rates, with Thermal (35.78 percent), Oasis (31.33 percent) and Coachella (17.69 percent) as the top three. Read the full report here.
A CDC map shows Riverside County among the communities with a high transmissibility of COVID-19. See the map here.
The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation responded early on during the pandemic, with the Board approving $1.3 million in March 2020 to help fund COVID-19 testing by federally qualified health centers and the core operating support of nonprofit partners adversely affected by the coronavirus. The support, which included matching contributions from the Regional Access Project Foundation, allowed the District and Foundation to acquire and donate essential PPE and to create an ongoing educational campaign to increase public awareness about the virus.
In fall 2020, acting as the financial intermediary for $1.2 million in CARES Act funds through Riverside County, the District and Foundation formed a collaborative to increase efforts to bring testing, resources, and eventually vaccines to traditionally undeserved communities, including thousands of migrant farmworkers in eastern Coachella Valley.
Comprised of community- and faith-based organizations, the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative continues its work with the county today to stop the spread of COVID-19 through a robust vaccination campaign. In recent months, its efforts have been bolstered by the contributions of Rite Aid Pharmacies, the Public Health Institute, the school districts, and Desert Care Network.
Media inquiries should be directed to Will Dean, director of communications and marketing for the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation
The Desert Healthcare District is a local government agency formed in 1948. Its mission is to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents. The District includes more than 400,000 residents and encompasses the entire Coachella Valley. The District and Desert Healthcare Foundation, together, are one of the largest funders in the valley. These funds are used to assist residents — especially the underserved — in accessing vitally needed resources, such as primary and behavioral healthcare, housing, food, and transportation to medical appointments. Learn more at www.dhcd.org.
Note: The news release has been edited to emphasize the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation Board is strongly recommending the safety measures, not attempting to mandate them.