Why Is COVID-19 Hitting Some North County Cities Harder than Others?

by on July 23, 2020 · 0 comments

in Health, San Diego

By Richard Riehl

San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency issues daily reports on the number of Coronavirus cases in each city. Here are the counts for North County, as of July 21, indicating the rate of cases per 100,000 residents.

  • Carlsbad: 349
  • Encinitas: 374
  • Oceanside: 448
  • San Marcos: 513
  • Vista: 595
  • Escondido: 645

I searched North County city websites, looking for clues to explain the differences in cities in the rate of infection. Would it be caused by the quality of city leadership, the demographics of the city residents, or both?

In measuring leadership, I looked for evidence of how often and how helpfully city leaders connected with their constituents with updates.

All cities posted periodic news releases on how the virus spread was affecting city business. Only two mayors, Oceanside’s Peter Weiss and San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, addressed their constituents directly, reassuring them that their cities were prepared to continue to provide city services in challenging times.

Only Carlsbad’s City Manager, Scott Chadwick, provided detailed, twice-weekly reports on the spread of the virus in Carlsbad and throughout the region. He included reports on current outbreaks infecting various County communities, including skilled nursing facilities. He described how contact tracing works, as well as the need to beware of scams by criminals relying on the virus to enable them to obtain personal and financial information from contact tracers.

A closer look at the demographics of North County cities suggests city leadership alone is not the reason for Carlsbad having the lowest rate of infections in North County.

The median household income of Carlsbad residents is $116,000, according to Neighborhood Scout, a website and online database of U.S. neighborhood analytics created in 2002 by geographer and demographics specialist Andrew Schiller, Ph.D. The city’s poverty rate stands at 6%, the lowest of the six cities.

Median household income in Escondido, which has the highest rate of infection, is $62,000. The poverty rate is the highest, at 15%.

Encinitas, which has the second lowest infection rate, is the least ethnically diverse, with only 20% people of color. At 64% , Escondido is the most diverse.

In North County cities the rate of COVID 19 infections rises with the fall of household income and the rise of the poverty rate and the number of persons of color.

Another example of income inequality, another wake-up call for all elected officials.

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