A surge in cases is pushing hospitals at both sites to the limit, putting Texas and Mexican health officials in the face of identical disasters.
A marked increase in coronavirus cases is pushing the hospitals in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, putting Texas and Mexican health officials before twin disasters in a tightly linked metropolitan area of 3 million people.
Health officials blame the increase on family meetings, that multiple generations live in the same home and young people who go out to buy or do business.
The crisis, which is part of the virus resurgence across most of the United States, it has created one of the most active outbreaks in North America and highlighted just how intricate they are the connections between the two cities economically, geographically and culturally, as many people come and go across the border to go shopping or visit family.
“We are two cities, we can say siamese” said Roberto Melgoza Ramos, a Juárez resident whose son recovered from COVID-19 after taking a cocktail of home remedies and prescription medications. “You can’t cut Juarez without hurting El Paso, and you can’t cut El Paso without hurting Juarez. ”
In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and have imposed a curfew from 10 pm In addition, they are assembling dozens of hospital beds in a convention center.
In addition, the El Paso University Medical Center erected heated isolation tents to treat coronavirus patients. Ryan Mielke, director of public affairs, said the hospital had 195 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, up from fewer than three dozen less than a month ago, and “continues to grow every day, every hour.”
In Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, respirators and doctors, nurses and specialists in respiratory diseases. He is also placing a hospital within the local university gymnasium to help with the increase in cases.
Juárez has reported more than 12,000 infections and more than 1,100 deaths, but the actual numbers are believed to be much higher, because COVID-19 testing is done in a quantity extremely limited. El Paso County registered about 1,400 new cases Tuesday, just shy of the previous day’s record of 1,443. The county had 853 patients hospitalized for the new coronavirus on Monday, up from 786 the day before.
Even the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Armando Cabada, has been infected. The local president was diagnosed with COVID-19 in May and appeared to have recovered, but was hospitalized last week for inflammation in the lungs.
Last week, Chihuahua, which is home to Ciudad Juárez, became the only state in Mexico to return to its highest level of health alert, or red, under which most non-essential services must close and calls are made to people to stay home.
There are also restrictions on activities in Ciudad Juárez, but they have been difficult to enforce in the sprawling city that is home to hundreds of plants that make appliances, auto parts and other products 24 hours a day.
The United States and Mexico agreed months ago restrict cross-border transit essential activities, but there has been little evidence that Mexico prevented anyone from entering. Other Mexican border cities have complained about the entry of people from US cities where there are coronavirus outbreaks.
Dr. Héctor Ocaranza, the health authority for the city and county of El Paso, said the city’s strongly Latino culture, which values family ties, has been a contributing factor to the spread of the coronavirus. People under the age of 40 go to work and participate in other activities, then visit their older relatives and give them the virus, he said.
Most of those hospitalized are over 60, but young adults they constitute almost half of all cases, Ocaranza said.
Last week, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez sent a letter to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico to ask him to prohibit the entry of foreigners, especially Americans, because “the crossings carried out indiscriminately are contributing in a very active way to the spread of the virus.” ‘.
Mexico has reported at least 89,100 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, although authorities estimate that probably another 50,000 have died from the virus. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador decreed three days of national mourning for the victims of COVID-19, which coincide with the celebration of the Day of the Dead that begins this weekend.