Brink

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Virus pushes twin cities El Paso and Juarez to the brink

A record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with twin disasters in the tightly knit metropolitan area of 3 million people.

Health officials are blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and younger people going out to shop or conduct business.

The crisis — part of a deadly comeback by the virus across nearly the entire U.S. — has created one of the most desperate hot spots in North America and underscored how intricately connected the two cities are economically, geographically and culturally, with lots of people routinely going back and forth across the border to shop or visit with family.

“We are like Siamese cities,” said Juarez resident Roberto Melgoza Ramos, whose son recovered from a bout of COVID-19 after taking a cocktail of homemade remedies and prescription drugs. “You can’t cut El Paso without cutting Juarez, and you can’t cut Juarez without cutting El Paso.”


In other developments Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, banned indoor dining and drinking in Chicago in one of the biggest retreats yet in the face of the latest surge. And Wisconsin’s governor pleaded with residents to voluntarily stay home as the state shattered records for daily cases and deaths. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order in March, but the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court struck it down two months later.

In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds at a convention center.

Also, the University Medical Center of El Paso erected heated isolation tents to treat coronavirus patients. As of Tuesday, Ryan Mielke, director of public affairs, said the hospital had 195 COVID-19 patients, compared with fewer than three dozen less than a month ago, and “it continues to grow by the day, by the hour.”

In Juarez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, ventilators and doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists. A hospital is being set up inside the gymnasium of the local university to help with the overflow.

Juarez has reported more than 12,000 infections and over 1,100 deaths, but the real numbers are believed to be far higher, because COVID-19 testing is extremely limited. El Paso County recorded about 1,400 new cases Tuesday, just short of the previous day’s record of 1,443. The county had 853 patients hospitalized for the virus on Monday, up from 786 a day earlier.

Even the mayor of Juarez hasn’t been spared. Armando Cabada was first diagnosed in May and appeared to have recovered, but then landed in the hospital last week with inflamed lungs.

Last week, Chihuahua, which includes Juarez, became the only state in Mexico to return to its highest level health alert, or red, under which most nonessential services are shut down and people are encouraged to stay home.

A curfew is

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‘At Capacity’: Covid-19 Patients Push U.S. Hospitals to Brink

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — A hospital in Idaho is 99 percent full and warning that it may have to transfer coronavirus patients to hospitals in Seattle and Portland, Ore. Medical centers in Kansas City, Mo., turned away ambulances on a recent day because they had no room for more patients. And in West Allis, just outside Milwaukee, an emergency field hospital erected on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair admitted its first virus patient this week.

More than 41,000 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus in the United States, a 40 percent rise in the past month, and cooler weather that pushes more people indoors is threatening to expand the outbreak still more. At least 14 states saw more people hospitalized for the virus on a day in the past week than on any other day in the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Seven more states are nearing their peaks.

The nation has seen more people hospitalized at earlier points — during an onslaught of cases in New York City in April and in the Sun Belt in July — but the sharply rising numbers now are deeply worrisome, in part, because they are testing the limits of smaller hospital systems.

Patients are now spread more broadly across the country, with troubling hot spots from North Dakota to Kentucky. More people than ever are falling critically ill in rural areas, particularly in the Midwest and the Mountain West, where they must rely on hospitals that may have only a handful of beds. And experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount.

“I don’t really see any signs that things are slowing down and that concerns me a lot,” Caitlin M. Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, said. “It has to be our starting premise that it’s not going to slow down unless we force it to slow down.”

Even as hospitalizations and known cases of the virus have grown, daily deaths across the country have remained fairly steady at around 760 in recent days. But some experts fear that the rate of deaths is beginning to rise again. Upticks in deaths usually lag behind rises in cases and hospitalizations because of the time it takes for the virus to progress.

For families around the country, the mounting hospitalizations were frightening — and personal. Among the thousands of patients, there was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who had trouble catching her breath in Missouri, grandparents being treated in separate hospitals in Utah and a beloved uncle whose niece said he had been on a ventilator for five weeks in Wisconsin.

Amy Stadler, the niece, sat in a black minivan outside of the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium this week as she waited for a nurse to swab her nose. She said relatives had collected messages for her uncle — who is gravely ill — to be shared if his condition were to grow even more

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U.S. on Brink of Rampant Coronavirus Spread, Europe Hospitals Strained | Top News

By Maria Caspani and Bart H. Meijer

NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of U.S. states were in a danger zone of coronavirus spread and six, including election battleground Wisconsin, reported a record one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday while the pandemic’s resurgence in Europe strained hospitals.

Coronavirus deaths hit fresh daily records in Hawaii, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, a state that also reported a record daily increase in new cases together with Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced that a field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs admitted its first COVID-19 patient since it opened last week.

“Folks, please stay home,” Evers said. “Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

European case numbers, which were brought largely under control by the unprecedented lockdowns in March and April are also surging, and authorities in countries from Poland to Portugal expressed mounting alarm at the renewed crisis confronting their health infrastructure.

Belgium, struggling with what its health minister called a “tsunami” of infections, is postponing all non-essential hospital procedures, and similar measures are looming in other countries.

“If the rhythm of the past week continues, rescheduling and suspending some non-priority activities will become unavoidable,” said Julio Pascual, medical director at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar.

A Belgian official said another lockdown could be imposed as soon as next week in the country, which has one of the world’s highest fatality rates per capita.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has repeatedly opposed re-imposing restrictions, saying economic recovery depended on people being able to return to normal life.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work, has taken a toll on Trump’s re-election prospects. Negotiations on a new package of coronavirus economic aid have dragged on and a deal appeared unlikely before the Nov. 3 election.

Thirty-two of 50 states have entered a danger zone with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, and nationally the case rate has reached its highest level since a peak in July, Reuters found.

A block of states in the Midwest and Mountain regions from Idaho to Illinois were a red zone along with Alaska, denoting rapidly rising infection.

Nationally, cases have been trending higher for five weeks, rising to 60,000 on average over the past seven days from a recent low of 35,000 a day in mid-September.

U.S. public health experts have warned for months that a premature rollback of social-distancing policies and politicizing the wearing of masks could trigger a resurgence of infections.

“We are not far from the period of exponential, explosive growth of #covid19 in the U.S.,” said Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, on Twitter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday tightened its definition of “close contact” exposure that puts an individual at risk, a standard that triggers contact

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