Texas, Chihuahua rush medical resources to border amid COVID-19 surge

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El Paso getting nurses, respiratory therapists "on loan" from Texas; Chihuahua sending more PPE and test kits to Juarez

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference where he provided an update to Texas’ response to COVID-19, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Texas and Chihuahua are sending additional medical resources to the border after spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the El Paso-Juarez area.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday the deployment of 75 medical personnel, including nurses and respiratory therapists, in addition to the 169 health workers previously deployed to El Paso. A state agency will also be sending medical supplies to El Paso.

“It is vital that Texas communities seeing an uptick in hospitalizations have the resources they need to combat COVID-19,” Abbott said. “This surge in medical personnel and PPE will help support El Paso’s hospitals and first responders as we mitigate the spread of this virus.”

El Paso County on Monday reported 424 new coronavirus infections as well as two additional deaths. This brings the totals to 28,934 cases and 551 fatalities since the pandemic began.

El Paso city and county officials are particularly concerned with the recent surge in active infections. On Monday, the county reported 6,145 active COVID-19 cases, thus setting yet another record in the space of a few days.

Health officials previously told Border Report they are concerned “COVID-19 fatigue” is setting in among the population after seven months of not going out at will, wearing face masks and social distancing.

Across the border in Juarez, Mexico, Chihuahua state officials on Monday said they are rolling back a planned economic reopening because of a prolonged spike in coronavirus infections and hospitals again running out of room.

The city has reported hundreds of new cases and more than 20 deaths in the past three days, bringing its totals to 8,722 deaths and 912 fatalities.

Guidance for businesses and services in Juarez (State of Chihuahua)

The state on Monday afternoon announced restrictions that include the closing of all bars (including those inside restaurants), event halls, movie theaters, museums and nightclubs. Visitation at prisons is back to appointment-only, while visits to nursing homes are banned. Restaurants are being allowed to operate at 50% capacity; hotels and stores inside malls at 30% capacity; and churches at 15% capacity. Medical and dental offices can operate at 100% occupancy and essential industry at 60% capacity, according to a graphic released on Monday.

“(Juarez) came out of the orange threat level six weeks ago and this gave us a necessary break because of the deteriorating economic conditions,” state Health Department Director Eduardo Fernandez Herrera said in a teleconference. “But we believe this was misinterpreted. We saw great numbers of people in shopping centers, streets and markets. Many did not wear masks or observe social distancing, and this has caused the number of infections to rise exponentially.”

Chihuahua State Health Director Eduardo Fernandez (Courtesy State of Chihuahua)

He added that hospital capacity in Juarez is again above 50% and that already-exhausted health workers are being forced to work around the clock.

“We need every member of society to assume his responsibility. Without your support, this pandemic will not be controlled,” Fernandez said. “You need to assume responsibility for yourselves, your family and your surroundings.”

Chihuahua this week will start a public-education blitz in news and social media and send additional health resources to Juarez, he said. That includes more personal protective equipment, medication and COVID-19 test kits to hospitals. The goal is to test between 250 to 300 people a day and isolate carriers before they spread the infection to the elderly and infirm, who are dying in greater numbers, he said.

Also, since compliance with preventive measures seems to be the issue, the state will be cracking down on businesses that don’t comply with regulations or enforce mask and social distancing requirements for customers, he said.

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