Houston prepared to support El Paso in COVID-19 crisis

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The U.S. has now crossed 9 million cases. Some parts of the country seeing lockdowns again, including El Paso.

The county judge ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses in response to a massive surge in cases which has overwhelmed hospitals.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted the shutdown is a violation of the governor's executive order, and that he's exploring legal actions.

However, in response to the overwhelmed medical staff, major Texas cities, including Houston, are prepared to take in patients from El Paso.

Dr. David Persse, Chief Medical Officer for the City of Houston, said, as of right now, he is aware of one patient that has been transported to Houston.

"Our predictions have been that it may be as many as two or four (patients) a day, which is really for our community not a huge burden," Dr. Persse said. "But remember, we'll be sharing whatever is coming out of El Paso with Dallas, San Antonio and Austin."

Dr. Ogechika Alozie, Chief Medical Officer at Del Sol Medical Center and Infectious Disease Specialist in El Paso, talked to ABC13 about the current conditions.

El Paso County's seven-day average positivity rate currently stands at 20%. It also is the second county in the state, behind Harris County, with the highest number of active COVID-19 cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

State and federal resources have set up temporary tents to expand hospital capacity in an attempt to care for as many patients as possible.

"Whenever FEMA comes in to any community, it's not a good thing," Dr. Alozie said. "It means the resources have been strained to its breaking point. I think again the important thing about the tents is that they provide an extra level, an extra sort of stretch goal of where we can utilize and take care of patients."

Dr. Alozie said there are multiple factors that contributed to the county's surge, but it does heed warning to other Texas cities that are experiencing an uptick in cases.

"This could happen anywhere. Once the community lets their foot off the brake, doesn't really monitor what is happening in congregate facilities - be it family gatherings, and in our environment it's the border as well, right. A large percentage of people coming back and forth," Dr. Alozie said, "And so all of those things are a part of it."

Dr. Persse said it is important for Houstonians to continue to practice CDC recommendations of social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wear a mask to help the city and Harris County control the spread of COVID-19.

"One thing that we can do here in Houston to support not only El Paso but our own community is to do whatever it takes for us to keep the situation under control here so that we can be in a support role to El Paso and not competing with El Paso for the same resources," Dr. Persse said.

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