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An elderly adult with underlying health conditions is the first person to die in Imperial County from complications of COVID-19, officials announced Thursday.

The patient had recently been diagnosed and was being treated at a San Diego hospital, the county Public Health Department said in a news release. The patient had “minimal local community exposure” and spent time at residences in the county and in Mexicali, the release said.

“My heartfelt condolences go out to the individual’s family and friends during this difficult time,” Dr. Stephen Munday, the county’s health officer, said in a statement. “Any loss of life is tragic, but this is particularly sobering.”

Imperial County is one of the poorest in the state and has one of the highest rates for people with asthma. Its two hospitals have fewer than 300 beds.

County health officials told inewsource last month that they’re prepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The county said in its new release that residents “should assume that they have been exposed to the virus and continue to take the necessary precautions.”

As of Wednesday, Imperial County had reported 43 positive cases, six of whom have recovered and are no longer in isolation. Another nine people are waiting for test results and 219 have tested negative.

Jennifer Bowman is an investigative reporter at inewsource, covering mostly education. She’s happy to be back in her hometown after stints at daily newspapers in Michigan and North Carolina. At the Asheville Citizen Times, Jennifer’s award-winning coverage of yearslong corruption helped...