Texas National Guard deployed to assist El Paso with morgue overflow

Texas National Guard troops have been deployed to El Paso, Texas to assist with morgue operations as the city and county grapple with a COVID-19[female[feminine push. The Texas Emergency Management Division said in a statement that “after completing an assessment of the field situation in El Paso County this week, the state has mobilized a team of 36 members of the Texas National Guard to provide support for mortuary affairs starting at 9 am tomorrow, ”CBS’s El Paso affiliate reported on Friday.

The mayor of the city, Dee Margo, said on Twitter Friday that a “rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations” caused a “spike in deaths”. The Texas Army will now provide “essential personnel” to execute the city’s “death management plan”.

The city and county of El Paso were granted a “central morgue location to further support the medical examiner’s office, funeral homes and morgues with additional capacity,” he said.

Bodies wrapped in plastic line the walls inside a refrigerated trailer used as a mobile mortuary by the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office in El Paso, Texas on November 13, 2020.

JUSTIN HAMEL / AFP via Getty Images

There are now more than 300 people in an intensive care unit in El Paso County due to COVID-19. Earlier this month, officials said they were bringing 10 temporary mortuary trailers.

So many people died that the county posted jobs for the morgue attendants.

El Paso County was pay detainees $ 2 per hour to move bodies of deceased COVID victims. Prison work is not unusual, but videos of inmates wearing striped coveralls loading plastic-wrapped bodies onto refrigerated trucks have raised concerns about their treatment during the outbreak of virus cases, all the more so that COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons have been a recurring problem throughout the pandemic.

El Paso is just one of the areas hit hard by a nationwide wave of the virus. The United States recorded 195,000 new cases of the virus On Friday, the ninth time this month, a record was set for new infections confirmed in a single day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There have been 1,300 deaths per day since Sunday and hospitalizations topped 82,000 on Friday.

El Paso health officials reported nearly 1,074 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths on Saturday, bringing the total to 80,291 cases and 853 deaths, according to the city and county’s COVID-19 dashboard.

City and county intensive care units are so overwhelmed with COVID patients that they are transporting the infected to other cities in Texas in an attempt to save lives, CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca reported earlier this week.

Brock Miller, a spokesperson for ambulance airline AirMed International, said 50% of the company’s flights are now linked to COVID-19.

Miller told Villafranca he had never seen anything like it before. “We’ve had SARS, H1N1, but nothing compares to COVID,” he said.

According to the Texas Emergency Task Force, at least 84 patients have used an air ambulance since the start of the pandemic – all from El Paso last month.

Other cities in the state currently have the physical capacity to cope with the El Paso overflow, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler told Villafranca on Wednesday that if the number of COVID-19 patients continues to increase, there is concern that there will be enough health workers to treat them.

“We have a physical space, but as we learned in June / July, the real threat to us is having people so that our staff are (not) overwhelmed,” he said.

Adler, however, warned on Friday that the city “will soon be running out of hospital beds” if people don’t wear face masks, distance themselves and avoid groups and non-essential physical contact. “We have the power to stay below our 200-bed hospital capacity and avoid stage 5-red,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’ve done it before – we can do it again, together.”

More than 250,000 people have died from the virus in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people not to travel on Thanksgiving.

“Gatherings with family and friends who don’t live with you can increase the chances of catching or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the CDC says. “Travel can increase your chances of catching and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

Still, about 50 million Americans are expected to travel during the holidays, raising the country’s risk of a more exponential growth in cases and deaths as winter approaches.

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