In western Texas, where the number of first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States exceeded one million, El Paso, with a population of about 680,000, became the “epicenter” of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States in the past period. Recently, CCTV reporter Xu Dezhi walked into El Paso and visited the severe epidemic prevention situation in the area.
Reporter enters El Paso, the epicenter of the epidemic
It is hard to imagine that such a small city located in the desert of the border between the United States and Mexico will be hit so hard by the novel coronavirus. Over the past few weeks, El Paso’s ward utilization has reached 100%, and many critically ill patients can only be sent to San Antonio nearly 900 kilometers away for treatment.
Outside the El Paso University Medical Center, we saw temporary tents. According to the hospital, due to the excessive number of COVID-19 infections, the hospital is no longer open to visitors, and patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection have also been diverted. Patients diagnosed with above moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can enter the hospital through independent entrances in the tent areas where emergency treatment is carried out. Because of the hospital’s reception ability, mild patients will be asked by doctors to go home for isolation.
In addition to the general hospital, at the end of October, part of the conference center in the center of El Paso was also converted into a temporary hospital, which can accommodate up to 100 patients. Many exhibitors and tourists who rushed into the conference center in the past disappeared and were replaced by nurses, doctors and other medical workers. Due to strict confidentiality, all personnel refused our interview, even the current use of beds in the hospital.
El Paso’s nearly 1,000 deaths also overstretched the funeral facilities in the small city. To store more of the dead, El Paso called 10 refrigerated trucks. As the death toll caused by COVID-19 rises, there is also a shortage of body porters, resulting in the use of prisoners serving sentences to work.
The staff opened the refrigerator and transported the bodies to other places one by one. Not far away, helicopters roared across the sky and took the patient to the hospital. Residents around us told us that they could see such scenes four or five times a day after the outbreak of COVID-19. There are signs that although the epidemic in El Paso has begun to enter a period of stabilization, the epidemic prevention is still severe.
The local people suffer from the pain of losing their loved ones.
In such a severe epidemic, there is a sad experience about COVID-19 behind almost every El Paso person, many of whom even suffer the pain of losing their loved ones.
The family of Bonnie Soria Najera, one of the board members of directors of El Paso Community College, has been widely reprinted by the American media.
On May 15 this year, Nahra’s mother died after being admitted to the hospital after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Subsequently, her father was also diagnosed. When Nahra was preparing for her mother’s funeral, there was bad news of her father’s death.
Nahra said, “I got the phone and the phone rang. They said your father’s heart stopped. We tried two electric shocks and also tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation. What should we do now? Shall we stop trying? Or do you want to continue? You know, this… I mean, how can I make such a decision? He is my father!” Nahra almost cried.
Subsequently, Nahra was also diagnosed. Despite her successful recovery, her aunt died of COVID-19 in August, his cousin died in September, and another aunt and uncle died of infection in November. In just half a year, six family members died of the epidemic. She is angry with those who ignore the epidemic.
Nahra said: “I am very sad because I know that someone knows everything we have experienced. They left a message in my experience that they are sorry for the loss of my loved one. Really? Are you really sad? Because you don’t look sad when you are still gathering, you are risking your loved ones and their lives.
Even in our random interviews at COVID-19 testing sites, we can hear such sad stories. The testees told us that they wanted to test here because they wanted to know more about their situation to protect their families and their communities.
Section Barragan came with his family to test. He also experienced a similar experience to Nahra. He said that he had been quarantined at home for more than 30 days since the end of October, the first time he had been out in more than a month.
Sett Balakan said: “I have three friends who have passed away. It’s sad that they are the same family, one after another, and it’s very important that we make sure we don’t spread the virus to anyone else. We are not here to test ourselves today, but to others.”
“It’s best for everyone to stay at home because it’s all true and it could make you lose friends and loved ones,” Balakan told us he wanted to say to those who still don’t believe COVID-19 exists.
At a time of severe epidemic, many people in El Paso have realized that they must take action to stop the virus from continuing to ravage. But they paid a heavy price for it.
The “abnormal” state of the US-Mexico border continues.
El Paso is an important border city in the United States. The Paso del Norte International Bridge port here is one of the busiest in the United States, with more than 10 million people per year before the epidemic. Enter the United States here. Some people think that the number of people crossing the border decreased after the travel bans imposed by the United States and Mexico and Canada in March, but others do not think so.
Benjamin is a truck driver. The family is preparing to travel from the bridge to the city of Valez, Mexico, to visit relatives there. He said that now vehicles to the United States still need to queue up for a long time to enter.
Benjamin said, “I think it’s almost the same. Look at the car queuing on the bridge. It’s the same as before, but it still takes two hours to wait. It’s the same. I don’t think there is any difference or restrictions, such as not allowing people to enter the country.”
But even if he doesn’t think the border is really restrictive, he still feels the impact of the pandemic on the lives of his loved ones.” The situation in Mexico is that many families are struggling. So we’re going to help them, I bought a lot like sausages and cans (go see them).”
In fact, the border control measures of the United States, Mexico and Canada have been in place for more than half a year. It now seems that there are still a lot of vehicles and people crossing the border, even long queues, but customs officials told us that this is actually much less than before the epidemic.
Although the border restrictions may not be strict, according to the data of the U.S. Department of Transportation as of September this year, the number of crossings in El Paso since April after the outbreak, whether it is buses, private vehicles and pedestrians, has decreased by more than 50% year-on-year. The transit time has not been shortened because of the smaller number of people, but because the port itself has reduced staff and closed several lanes for epidemic prevention.
The workers who rely on the border to help transport Mexican goods to the United States are obviously different due to the epidemic and travel restrictions.
Jonathan, who picked up goods manually at the port to the U.S. business, said that people living in Warwick City will come to buy things. So now we don’t have so many customers, so the business has deteriorated a lot. In fact, we work 30 hours a week, and I think all the merchants are similar.
Indeed, as Jonathan said, not only have workers’ working hours been reduced due to the epidemic, but in fact, various small vendors across the El Paso port can obviously feel that business is not as good as before. Some vendors even told us that there were almost no guests after 4 p.m. every day, so they had to close the store.
From the rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths to the restricted and depressed cross-border number, El Paso, a city on the border with the United States and Mexico, is being hit hard by the epidemic, from its health care system to business activities. But the continuation of the epidemic has caused El Paso’s pain and it is difficult to see an end in the short term.