The record increase in coronavirus cases has pushed hospitals to the brink of the precipice in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with two disasters in the highly interconnected metropolitan area of 3 million people.
Health officials blame the rise on family gatherings, with multiple generations living in the same home and young people going out to shop or do business.
The crisis – part of a fatal resurgence of the virus in nearly all of the United States – has created one of the most desperate hotspots in North America and has highlighted the complexity of the economic, geographic and cultural interconnections between the two cities, where so many people routinely go. Round trip across the border for shopping or visiting with family.
In El Paso, authorities have ordered residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a curfew at 10 pm, and are equipping dozens of hospital beds at the convention center.
The University Medical Center in El Paso has also set up isolated, heated tents to treat coronavirus patients. As of Tuesday, Ryan Milky, Director of Public Affairs, said the hospital had 195 patients with COVID-19, compared to fewer than thirty patients less than a month ago, and “continues to grow daily, by the hour.”
In Juarez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, ventilators, doctors, nurses, and respiratory specialists. A hospital is being set up inside the local university gymnasium to help bypass the water.
Juarez has reported more than 12,000 infections and more than 1,100 deaths, but the true numbers are believed to be much higher, as testing for COVID-19 is so limited. El Paso County recorded nearly 1,400 new cases on Tuesday, just below the previous day’s record of 1,443. The province received 853 virus patients on Monday, up from 786 the previous day.