El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has ordered that the entire El Paso County be on lockdown for two weeks on account of an upsurge in COVID-19 infections. The judge said there are now 14,359 active cases of the disease in the county as of Thursday, and that medical facilities are overwhelmed. He said without a drastic preventive measure such as a county-wide lockdown, there might be unprecedented deaths that must be avoided at all costs.
Judge Samaniego said there will be a general lockdown for two weeks but this does not include people on essential services as well as those going to vote. According to him, essential services include groceries, schools, childcare centers, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities. Due to the November 3 elections, the judge said voting will be considered an essential activity, and voters can be up and about.
“Our hospitals are at capacity. Our medical professionals are overwhelmed. If we don’t respond, we will see unprecedented levels of deaths,” Samaniego disclosed. “I call on every single El Pasoan to stay home unless you are working in an essential job or accessing essential services, including exercising your right to vote.”
The shutdown took effect at midnight on Thursday, October 29. Samaniego had earlier said the lockdown would commence at 10 pm but he shifted it to 12 am so that people can have enough time to leave the streets. Because of the fact that many hospitals are overwhelmed with rising coronavirus patients, some healthcare facilities said they will be airlifting non-COVID-19 patients to other hospitals in other cities so that there can be enough room to accommodate COVID-19 cases in their hospitals.
Jacob Cintron, CEO of University Medical Center in El Paso, said there are now 937 active coronavirus patients in his hospital and that this number is the highest ever witnessed at the facility. He noted that 236 intensive care beds have been set aside for coronavirus patients as against the 35 dedicated to patients in April. The hospital has also put up tents outside the facility so that patients can be attended to without delay.
“Our challenge is, as the number of individuals that require hospitalization grows, at some point, logically, we’re going to run out of capability,” Cintron said. “What really needs to change is behavior. More and more, our beds are being allocated to cover individuals that are infected with the COVID virus.”
One of the concerns of Cintron is that with overwhelming COVID-19 patients at hospitals in El Paso, standard patients who are on medical treatments may be hard put to accessing ongoing attention for their medical health. City officials beg citizens to adhere strictly to public health guidance such as face mask, social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning of surfaces frequently.