Officials in El Paso, Texas have resorted to using mobile morgues for mounting COVID-19 deaths as hospitals there hit 100 percent capacity.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego will extend the city’s lockdown order, set to expire Wednesday, amid a surge in coronavirus-related hospital and ICU numbers over the last 11 days.
“It doesn’t look good,” said Samaniego, according to KFOX 14.
“The hospitals are still not manageable. We’re having an inability to manage fatalities … It leaves me no choice but to lean towards an extension of the order.”
Last weekend, El Paso set up its third and fourth mobile morgue units and Samaniego said a total of 10 will be needed to handle the backlog of deceased COVID patients, the outlet said.
“We’ve got two more that are coming up, and then four additional ones that will be given directly to the funeral homes,” the judge explained.
The news is reminiscent of what New York City, the first major COVID-19 hotspot in the US, experienced in March and April when hospitals moved to refrigerated trailers to store bodies as funeral homes and medical examiners struggled to catch up.
Last weekend, El Paso County had a backlog of 85 deaths and since then, there’s been another 93, the outlet said.
“It may be as much as 20 per day the next two to three weeks. There might be more and more an incline of deaths,” Samaniego said.
“The potential is really what causes me to insist on that stay-at-home order.”
As of Monday, El Paso County had 899 new positive cases, bringing the total to 64,158, data shows. More than 26,000 of those cases, almost half, are currently active and 1,028 people are hospitalized with 304 in the ICU, according to county data.
If the hospitals don’t show any signs of recovery by Wednesday, Samaniego will be forced to extend the order, he said.
“Here we are going into almost a second week with very little evidence that we’re doing it properly,” Samaniego said about the spike in cases and deaths.
The state of Texas is currently fighting the lockdown in the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals but until a judge makes a ruling, Samaniego will be allowed to continue the order.