After the city recorded a roughly 300% increase in hospitalizations in less than a month, El Paso, Texas has turned its convention center into a field hospital and is asking residents to stay at home for two weeks. The spike in hospitalizations came as much of the United States saw a rise in the spread of coronavirus. Texas’ neighbor New Mexico recorded 4,252 new cases last week.
In El Paso, a border city of more than 680,000, the number of hospitalizations recorded in the last three weeks jumped from 259 to 786, according to the city’s director of public health, Angela Mora. In a statement, Mora warned that local health services and hospitals will remain strained for people suffering non-coronavirus emergencies like heart attacks, strokes and car accidents. “If we continue on this trend, we risk detrimental effects to our entire healthcare system,” Mora said. “For the sake of those hospitalized and the frontline healthcare workers working tirelessly each day to care for them, we ask you to please stay home for two weeks and eliminate your interactions with those outside your household until we can flatten the curve.”
People who don’t follow new local health orders requiring masks and social distancing will face fines, the public health department said in a news release on Sunday. In a separate statement, the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that El Paso’s convention center is set to open this week as a hospital with a capacity of as many as 100 beds. State officials were also deploying auxiliary medical units to local hospitals that can provide another 100 beds each, the statement said.
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