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Texas National Guard deployed to assist El Paso with morgue overflow

Texas National Guard troops have been sent to El Paso, Texas, to help with coroner operations as the city and county struggle with a COVID-19 wave. The Texas Division of Emergency Management said in a statement that “after completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week, the state has mobilized a team of 36 Texas National Guard personnel to provide support to mortuary houses that begins at 9 a.m. tomorrow, “CBS ‘El Paso subsidiary reported Friday.

The city’s mayor, Dee Margo, said on Twitter on Friday that a “rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations”

; has led to an “increase in deaths.” The Texas military will now provide “the critical staff” to carry out the city’s “death management plan.”

El Paso town and county have secured a “central morgue to further support the medical office, funeral homes and gazebo with additional capacity,” he said.

Bodies wrapped in plastic stretch the walls inside a refrigerated trailer used as a mobile morgue by the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office in El Paso, Texas on November 13, 2020.

JUSTIN HAMEL / AFP via Getty Images

There are now more than 300 people in an intensive care unit throughout El Paso County due to COVID-19. Earlier this month said officials they brought in 10 temporary morgue trailers.

So many have died that the county has released vacancies to morgue participants.

El Paso County var Prison inmates pay $ 2 an hour to move the bodies of deceased COVID victims. Prison work is not uncommon, but videos of inmates wearing striped jumpsuits loading plastic-wrapped bodies onto refrigerated trucks have raised concerns about their treatment during the rise in virus cases, especially as outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons have been a recurring problem throughout the pandemic.

El Paso is just one area that is being hit hard in the midst of a nationwide viral strain. The United States recorded 195,000 new virus cases Friday, the ninth time this month, a record has been set for newly confirmed infections in a single day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There have been 1,300 deaths a day since Sunday, and hospitalizations peaked at 82,000 on Friday.

El Paso health officials reported nearly 1,074 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths Saturday, bringing the total to 80,291 cases and 853 deaths, according to the city and county COVID-19 dashboard.

Intensive care units across the city and county are so overwhelmed by COVID patients that they fly the infected to other Texas cities to save lives, CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca reported earlier this week.

Brock Miller, a spokesman for the airline AirMed International, said 50% of the company’s flights are now related to COVID-19.

Miller told Villafranca that he had never seen anything like it before. “We’ve had SARS, H1N1, but nothing compares to COVID,” he said.

According to the Texas Emergency Task Force, at least 84 patients have used an air ambulance since the pandemic began – all from El Paso within the last month.

Other cities in the state currently have the physical capacity to take on El Paso’s overflow, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler told Villafranca on Wednesday that if the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, there is concern about having enough health workers to take care of them.

“We have physical space, but as we learned in June / July, the real threat to us is to have people so that our staff is (not) overwhelmed,” he said.

However, Adler warned Friday that the city will also “soon run out of hospital beds” if people do not wear face masks, social distance and avoid groups and non-essential physical contact. “We have the power to remain below our capacity of 200 beds and avoid phase 5 red,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’ve done it before – we can do it again together.”

More than 250,000 people have died from viruses in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged people not to travel for Thanksgiving.

“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” says the CDC. “Traveling can increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

Nevertheless, 50 million Americans are expected to travel over the holidays, increasing the country’s risk of more exponential growth in cases and deaths heading into winter.

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