AUSTIN (Nexstar) — El Paso is reporting a nearly 300% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of the month, and its local healthcare system is completely strained.
Over the weekend, county officials advised residents to stay home for the next two weeks as much as possible and established a nightly curfew.
“A curfew is imposed for all citizens between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Sunday.
“All area hospitals have reached capacity. All intensive care units in El Paso hospitals are 100% capacity,” Samaniego said, explaining the Texas Division of Emergency Management had been deployed to convert the convention center into an auxiliary hospital with an additional 100 beds.
While El Paso is reporting its hospitals are full, the Texas Department of State Health Services’ COVID-19 dashboard shows 363 beds are still available. That’s because the dashboard looks at the entire region, Trauma Service Area I, which includes more than just El Paso County.
Additionally, Governor Greg Abbott is requesting to use the Fort Bliss Army Hospital for non-COVID-19 patients.
The state has already surged medical personnel to the region twice this month, and now, the federal government is stepping in. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending two Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and a Trauma Critical Care Team.
“By surging stuff and staff, as Dr. Zerwas likes to say, it is really the best way to provide that capacity,” DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said last week.
Dr. Hellerstedt, the state’s top doctor, said last week Texas is better prepared to handle another spike after months of learning about the virus, building up stockpiles of PPE and setting hospital surge plans.
But even with extra resources, Dr. Hellerstedt emphasized the importance of personal responsibility.
“It all depends on us, Texas, it all depends on our ability to take the steps to continue to take the steps that are going to slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities to the point where we do not overwhelm the hospital system,” Dr. Hellerstedt added last week.