Hospitals Are Reeling Under a 46 Percent Spike in Covid-19 Patients

on Oct28
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Staff members said they were fighting constant exhaustion. “What’s going to happen when we cannot take care of these patients?” said Dr. Pedro Salinas, a critical care specialist, who worries about how much longer the staff can endure. “They are emotionally and mentally exhausted.”

The prospect of ending up in an overcrowded hospital ward is making some who are sick with the virus hesitant to check in. At the hospital in El Paso, staff members said some Covid-19 patients were arriving in the emergency room so debilitated that they required intubation almost immediately.

Sandra Garcia, 31, an El Paso resident who tested positive for the coronavirus last week, said she had been grappling with fatigue, shortness of breath and a loss of taste and smell, but had refrained from seeking care in the city’s crowded hospitals.

In the meantime, she is caring for a 13-year-old who also has Covid-19 and 5-year-old twins, who are all studying online from home. Ms. Garcia said she questioned why Dee Margo, El Paso’s mayor, had failed to order a shutdown of the city to curb the spike in cases.

“He’s just trying to get re-elected and it’s disgusting,” Ms. Garcia said.

Last week, Mr. Margo announced new restrictions such as closing parks to league and tournament play, but he said an order for a full city shutdown would need to come from the governor of Texas.

Dr. German Hernandez, a nephrologist who has been caring for patients at several hospitals in El Paso, said the situation was so acute that patients on oxygen were being kept in rooms in the trauma area of University Medical Center. He said that could be devastating in the event of a disaster such as the August 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in the city that left 23 people dead.

“God forbid we have another Aug. 3 shooting because we can’t handle it right now,” Dr. Hernandez said. “We have no buffer.”

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio reported from Milwaukee, Simon Romero from El Paso and Mike Baker from Seattle. Erin Coulehan contributed reporting from El Paso, Mitch Smith from Chicago, and Lucy Tompkins from New York.

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