Texas governor deploys EMS equipment, personnel to fight COVID-19 in El Paso

Abbott first dispatched state medical resources to El Paso three weeks ago, including medical personnel, ambulances and other equipment, and is sending three additional medical teams


Nicole Cobler
Austin American-Statesman

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Texas, the U.S. Department of Defense deployed 60 medical personnel Friday to El Paso to help treat COVID-19 patients there.

Statewide hospitalizations reached nearly 6,000 Thursday, the highest since Aug. 19, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

And new cases reached 8,332 Thursday, one day after the state health agency reported 9,048 new cases. A spokesman for the state health agency said a backlog of cases from Monday and Tuesday in El Paso likely contributed to Wednesday's number. Still, the latest case numbers are the highest since mid-August.

Officials continue to grapple with multiple hotspots, including in the Amarillo and Lubbock areas. But nowhere is as bad as the El Paso area.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that three U.S. Air Force medical teams of 20 medical advisers would be supporting three El Paso hospitals.

"Our ongoing partnership with the federal government is crucial to our efforts in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations in El Paso," Abbott said in a statement Friday. "I thank the Department of Defense for providing these resources to the El Paso community and for working alongside the Lone Star State to mitigate this virus."

Abbott first dispatched state medical resources to El Paso three weeks ago, including medical personnel, ambulances and other equipment.

He later announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management would establish an alternate care site at the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center to expand hospital capacity in the region. Then, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed two 35-person medical teams and a trauma critical care team to the area.

New cases in El Paso have surged for weeks and coronavirus patients make up more than 40% of the area's total hospitalizations, according to state health data.

The situation led local officials to issue a stay-at-home order and ordered nonessential businesses to shutter for two weeks.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the local order a "direct violation" of the governor's statewide coronavirus orders and joined a coalition of businesses suing the El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego over the order.

A state court ruled Friday that the El Paso order is legal. Paxton's office said it plans to appeal the ruling.

Texas health officials also reported Thursday 133 new coronavirus deaths, which likely occured over a 10-day period.

And the percent of positive coronavirus tests among those tested, or the positivity rate, continued to rise. State health officials reported a positivity rate of more than 10% on Wednesday, the latest data available.

Abbott has said a positivity rate over 10% is cause for concern. The last time Texas reported a positivity rate over 10% was on Aug. 18.

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(c)2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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