EL PASO, Texas (NewsNation Now) — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have soared to record levels in El Paso, Texas. Mobile morgues have been brought in to store those who have passed — this as Texas becomes the first state to surpass one million coronavirus cases.
“We thought we saw the surge the third week of July,” said Dr. Edward Michelson with Texas Tech University Health Sciences El Paso. “So that wasn’t the surge. This is really the surge.”
With 696 deaths and more than 29,000 active cases, COVID-19 is ravaging the most western point of Texas. The hospital systems are at their breaking point with almost 1,100 patients currently receiving care. El Paso alone seeing more hospitalizations than some entire states.
“I can’t help but think that the border plays a role in the number of cases we’re seeing,” said Michelson.
Michelson says about 150,000 U.S. citizens travel back and forth between El Paso and neighboring Juarez, which has a dense population of about 1.5 million people. He says heading into the holiday season, loved ones are coming together.
“This is a community that’s also highly Hispanic where families get together,” he said. “I think that’s part of the reason we’re seeing increased spread, as well.”
NewsNation asked El Paso native Ruben Rangel what it’s like to see his city in critical condition.
“El Paso is very good, but people don’t pay attention,” said Rangel. “I can tell you that people don’t take care of it. They party every night, they go around without masks.”
Health and city officials setting up a mobile morgue site with ten containers to store the bodies of those the virus has killed.
“It’s been a real challenge in the community for the families and for the funeral homes to arrange all the funerals quickly enough to keep up with demand,” said Dr. Michelson.
A two-week shutdown ordered by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego was supposed to end at 12 a.m. Thursday; however, he extended the order, which will now expire at 2 a.m. on Dec. 1. Dr. Michelson says he feels for the El Pasoans who are economically impacted by the shutdown but says it is what needs to happen to keep hospitals from hitting capacity.