JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Mexican officials are getting ready to shut down all non-essential activity in Juarez for a second consecutive weekend, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating.
A total of 146 have died of complications from the virus since Friday and some hospitals are in triage mode, refusing admission to all but those who show severe symptoms of the disease. Relatives of patients that were granted admission last week told Border Report they were told to purchase and bring to the hospital medical supplies their family members require.
Juarez reported 21 new deaths and 296 new infections on Monday. Across the border, El Paso, Texas reported seven new fatalities and 899 new cases, in addition to 98 cases confirmed earlier but not reported by the State of Texas until now.
Chihuahua state officials on Monday said they will resort to hiring out-of-state doctors and nurses given the deaths of 36 doctors, nurses and nursing aides who caught the coronavirus in the past few months. The state is willing to pay relocation costs and temporary lodging, so they come immediately.
All five major public hospitals are at or near capacity, so a mobile field hospital was to begin operations Monday afternoon.
“We need more hospital beds, more ventilators, but above all, we need responsible people who help us reduce the spread (of the coronavirus),” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the state Health Department in Juarez, as he showed reporters the inside of the field hospital Monday morning.
The H-shaped tent facility is in the back of Juarez General Hospital, which is where most people without medical coverage come to seek attention. The hospital had 90 beds but is housing more 120 patients. The mobile hospital will add 20 beds.
Health officials blame “COVID-19 fatigue” for what’s become the deadliest stage of the pandemic to date. “Given the spread of the virus, we could have 10 (field hospitals) and it wouldn’t be enough if people continue to behave the way they have,” said Dr. Eduardo Fernandez, the state’s health secretary.
He said hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients are having difficulty replacing deceased health workers or hiring more. “We are trying to hire people from states that are not having as much contagion (and) we are implementing alternative methods of attention so people are not without care,” he said, referring to mobile apps for community members to check their symptoms and avoid going to hospitals if they’re not that ill.
Health officials in Juarez said 80% of people who catch COVID-19 and don’t have underlying medical conditions experience only mild symptoms.
Another weekend shutdown looming
Meantime, state officials are working with Juarez police to reduce the community mobility they blame for the deadly COVID-19 spike of the past week or two.
On Saturday and Sunday, the mixed crews shut down 39 non-essential businesses that were open and persuaded managers at “big box” stores to send home non-essential workers. Even some Juarez supermarkets decided to close, and few people were caught driving after dark on Friday.
Last weekend’s shutdown began Friday at 7 p.m. and ended Monday at 6 a.m. Those restrictions will be enforced again this coming weekend, health officials said. In addition, motorists are not allowed to be out at night — from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. — Monday through Thursday unless they’re seeking medical care or running an essential errand, such as purchasing food or medicines.