A record spike in coronavirus cases is marginalizing hospitals in the border towns of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with dual disasters in the dense metropolitan area of 3 million people.
Health officials blame family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household, and younger people shopping or doing business at the top.
The crisis – part of a deadly comeback of the virus across almost the entire United States – has created one of the most desperate hot spots in North America, underscoring how closely the two cities are economically, geographically, and culturally linked and how many people routinely travel back and forth across the country Border to shop or visit with family.
In El Paso, authorities have ordered residents to stay at home for two weeks and have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew. They set up dozens of hospital beds in a convention center.
El Paso University Hospital built heated isolation tents to treat coronavirus patients. Ryan Mielke, director of public affairs, said Tuesday the hospital had 195 COVID-19 patients, compared with fewer than three dozen less than a month ago, and “it’s growing day by day, hour by hour.”
In Juarez, the Mexican government is deploying mobile hospitals, ventilators and doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists. A hospital will be set up in the local university high school to support the overflow.
Juarez has reported more than 12,000 infections and over 1,100 deaths, but the actual numbers are believed to be far higher as COVID-19 tests are extremely limited. El Paso County recorded approximately 1,400 new cases Tuesday, just below the previous day’s record of 1,443. The county had 853 patients hospitalized for the virus on Monday, up from 786 the day before.