A record increase in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to the brink, with health officials in Texas and Mexico facing a twin disaster in a metropolitan area tightly knit by 3 million people.
Health officials are blaming family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same home and young people going shopping or doing business.
The crisis – a deadly re-entry by virus across almost the entire US – has created one of the most desperate hotspots in North America and underscored how economically, geographically and culturally connected the two cities are, with many people going back and forth across the border to shop or visit with family.
In El Paso, authorities ordered residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a curfew at 10pm, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds in a convention center.
Also, the University of El Paso Medical Center has built heated isolation tents to treat coronavirus patients. As of Tuesday, Director of Public Affairs Ryan Milke said the hospital had 195 COVID-19 patients, down from three dozen a month earlier, and “it continues to rise by the hour per day.”
At Juarez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, ventilators and doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists. A hospital is being set up inside the gymnasium of the local university to help with the overflow.
Juarez has reported more than 12,000 infections and more than 1,100 deaths, but the actual numbers are believed to be much higher because the COVID-19 test is very limited. El Paso County reported 1,400 new cases Tuesday, up from 1,443 the previous day. In the county, 853 patients were hospitalized for the virus Monday, up from 786 the day before.