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Documenting the border’s ‘forgotten frontier’ in the pandemic

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Elliot Spagat, immigration reporter, San Diego; Robert Bumsted, video journalist, New York; Jae Hong, photographer, Los Angeles; and Greg Bull, photographer, San Diego, used exclusive hospital access and character-driven all-formats storytelling to reveal the impact of the coronavirus on Imperial County, an often overlooked majority Latino community on the California-Mexico border, already affected by poverty, air pollution, lack of health care and a border crossed by thousands daily.

Spagat, who has made various reporting trips to the area over the years, secured exclusive access to the El Centro hospital treating COVID-19 patients, opening the way for Bumsted and Hong to shoot photos and footage inside. Both leaned on previous experiences shooting inside ICU wards to know how to stay safe. Bull, previously based in Mexico for many years, focused on people in the city and on both sides of the border.

The team’s all-formats package, used widely across the country, evoked empathy and shed light on how areas like Imperial County are exceptionally vulnerable to the virus.

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