San Antonio hospitals taking patients from El Paso to relieve COVID-19 crisis

Bruce Selcraig

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As San Antonio hospitals began receiving El Paso intensive care unit patients by helicopter in hopes of relieving pressure on the hard-hit border city, Bexar County’s hospital admissions for COVID-19 rose by 11, officials said Monday.

No new local deaths were reported.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he knew of two El Paso patients who had been transferred to San Antonio hospitals and that as many as 10 more might be expected.

He described this as a normal “balancing of patients” that major metropolitan areas would engage in during a health crisis, stressing that it illustrated an extreme shortage of “people and (work) hours” and not necessarily a shortage of equipment and beds.

But so many new cases have hit El Paso that El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said he was “left with no choice” but to impose a mandatory overnight curfew and ask that all residents stay home for two weeks.

In a statement, the judge noted El Paso County has seen a 160 percent increase in its positivity rate in the past three weeks and a 300 percent increase in hospitalizations over that time. All area hospitals had reached capacity as of Saturday, including intensive care units.

Nirenberg reported 151 new positive cases of the coronavirus in Bexar County, bringing the cumulative total since the virus began to some 64,767.

Because 200 or more new cases were reported for several days last week, the 7-day moving average rose to 192.

The rebound in new cases has sent the overall risk level in the county to “moderate” and the all-important positivity rate has climbed from 5.8 percent last week to 6.9 percent.

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There were 248 COVID-19 patients in hospitals here, including 91 patients in intensive care units and 45 patients on ventilators fighting the disease.

Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said he attributed the uptick in new cases to “people taking their foot off the gas” and getting fatigued about staying vigilant in the fight against the disease, which has claimed over 231,000 lives in the United States.

“We have to double-down in our efforts,” said Rodriguez, “because you see the ramifications in places like El Paso if we don’t.”

Bruce Selcraig is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Bruce, become a subscriber.

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