Texas hospital overwhelmed by coronavirus could send some patients home to die

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The Starr County government and health officials announced this week that they are creating committees to review the cases of patients at Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City.

At least 50% of patients admitted to the hospital emergency room have tested positive for Covid-19, Dr Jose Vasquez, the county health authority, said at a press conference earlier this week.

“The situation is desperate,” he said.

This rural southern Texas county started seeing an increase in positive cases about a month ago, Vasquez said, and the hospital admitted its first Covid-19 patient at that time.

The hospital quickly filled all eight beds in its Covid-19 unit, so it went up to 17 and then 29 beds, Vasquez said. About 33 medical workers, including doctors and lab technicians, have been deployed by the state to assist the hospital.“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who will receive treatment and who will be sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote in a Thursday report. Facebook message. “This is what we didn’t want our community to experience.”

Vasquez said it was a difficult decision to start reviewing cases, but with limited resources, officials must determine who has * the best chance * of survival.

“Patients who certainly have no hope of getting better, we believe they are best taken care of within their own families for the sake of their own home rather than thousands of miles away,” dying alone in a hospital room, ”Vasquez told me.

At least 40 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Starr County on Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 1,701. There have been 17 deaths linked to the virus and 32 more are awaiting confirmation by the state, have local health officials said.

“When we talk about deceased people in our community, we are talking about uncles, cousins, siblings, colleague, relative,” Vasquez said. “We’re talking about people who have had a close relationship with one of us in one way or another. ”

According to data from the US Census Bureau, approximately 64,000 people live in Starr County.

The rise of the pandemic has been particularly severe along the Texas-Mexico border. Starr County’s neighbor Hidalgo County has become one of the state’s main coronavirus hotspots.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Sunday that five U.S. Navy teams are deploying to South Texas to help fight the spread of the virus.

A new shelter-at-home order began in Starr County on Friday, nearly three months after Governor Abbott ended the state’s stay-at-home order, allowing businesses to reopen at capacity limited. Texas was one of the first states to reopen its economy.

The county ordinance is expected to remain in effect until Aug. 10 and requires residents to shelter in their homes, including those who live in hotels, motels and shared rentals.

A mandatory curfew was also imposed from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for anyone over 18 and from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for residents 17 years of age and under unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“We are back to the wall,” said Judge Vera, who signed the order, at a press conference. “We are literally in a life and death situation. “

CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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