EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – COVID-19 claimed another 29 lives in the El Paso-Juarez region, where hospitals are at or near capacity and both cities enforce emergency measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
While El Paso reported another four deaths and 1,390 new cases on Tuesday, it was Juarez, Mexico that bore the brunt of the fatalities, with 25.
Chihuahua state health officials on Sunday had warned about an impending spike in COVID-19 deaths, as they had nearly a hundred patients in critical condition or breathing with the aid of ventilators.
“Our priority is to slow the contagion, so our hospitals are not overwhelmed,” said Dr. Leticia Ruiz, head of preventive services for the Chihuahua state health department, which supervises medical facilities in Juarez. “We were doing well, but there came a point in which people felt the need to go back to their normal lives. But the virus never went away. It was still there and now our hospitals are nearly full.”
She said Juarez hospitals have had to reconfigure their patient areas to install more beds and added that the Mexican government is sending additional equipment, such as ventilators, and is helping Juarez and Chihuahua City erect mobile hospitals.
In Juarez, the mobile facility will be located at Gimnasio Universitario, a gym and sports venue just behind Juarez General Hospital, which on Tuesday was at 78% capacity, even after adding patient beds.
“The first trucks (with materials) arrived today, the mobile facilities should start going up (on Wednesday),” Ruiz said.
However, things continued to take a turn for the worse, as the number of patients on ventilators rose to 155 by Tuesday.
Health officials in both Juarez and El Paso attribute the current critical surge in hospitalizations to “COVID-19 fatigue.” That means people got fed up after six months of stay-at-home recommendations, started going out and brought the virus home to vulnerable family members who are elderly, diabetic or suffering from other chronic ailments. In both cities, the elderly and the infirm make up the bulk of the fatalities.