Local union president blames El Centro leaders for rising death numbers

Local union president blames El Centro leaders for rising death numbers

Olivia Sandusky

COVID-19 has hit Imperial County hard.

The area’s positivity rate is nearing 20 percent, and the county has had almost 200 deaths. 

Now the president of a local union says more could have been done to protect the community.

“There was no planning in place, and our initial phone calls were falling on deaf ears. Right now what’s happening is the city of El Centro is single handedly, in my opinion, creating an atmosphere that allows for the spread of coronavirus,” said Joe Duffle, president of United Food and Commercial Workers.

Duffle represents businesses and employees in the Imperial Valley.

One of his El Centro locations, which he’s choosing to not disclose out of the businesses privacy, has had 35 percent of its employees test positive, resulting in one death.

“I hold them absolutely accountable for this. You’ve got elected officials from the state level and from the county level saying look, we’ll work with you. And every time there’s a mandate from the governor’s office you’re getting push back from El Centro,” said Duffle.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia has been in conversation with city leaders throughout Imperial County, he says enforcement needs to be increased in El Centro.

“There’s a lot more we could do here locally to enforce some of these rules. They don’t have to be punitive. They just have to be stern and backed up with science,” said Garcia.

Imperial Valley cities including El Centro reopened in May, but Gov. Newsom encouraged the area to close down a month later as case numbers spiked.

Now the El Centro Mayor says they’ve tightened up their regulations are are following state orders.

He also says some concerns about specific businesses are outside of his jurisdiction.

“We’ve given out 500 touchless thermometers for businesses to take temperatures of their employees and customers, we’ve also given out masks to businesses as well,” said Mayor Silva.

Silva says they’ve also created loans for businesses as the community deals with a nearly 30 percent unemployment rate

But Duffle says the council’s actions are too late.

“What has been allowed to be done there is absolutely shameful. And I’m not exaggerating, people are dying. People are dying because they want to play a political game,” said Duffle.

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