Major US City Imposes Second Lockdown as Local Hospitals Reach Capacity

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Thursday he is ordering a two-week shutdown of all non-essential services for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Our hospitals are at capacity. Our medical professionals are overwhelmed. If we don’t respond, we will see unprecedented levels of deaths,” Samaniego said at a news briefing.

Essential businesses, including grocery stores, schools, child care centers, pharmacies and health care facilities, will remain open, he said. He said the order takes effect at midnight.

He said voting will also be considered an essential activity.

“I call on every single El Pasoan to stay home unless you are working in an essential job or accessing essential services, including exercising your right to vote,” Samaniego said.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been gradually climbing in El Paso County. There are currently 14,359 active cases of the virus in the county, Samaniego said.

The judge had previously ordered a 10 p.m. curfew for residents in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Local hospitals announced earlier this week that they planned to airlift some non-COVID patients to hospitals in other cities to make room.

The new stay-at-home order, though, marks one of the most aggressive actions taken by the county to date in response to the virus, Samaniego acknowledged.

The announcement comes about three weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order allowing bars in some counties to reopen at 50% capacity.

“I’m also very cognizant and respectful of the governor’s orders. The hard truth is that the people who are dying are El Pasoans. They were not in Austin and I have the responsibility to do everything I can to protect El Pasoans,” Samaniego said.

The CEO of the University Medical Center in the city of El Paso, Jacob Cintron, said his hospital is caring for 937 COVID-19 patients, “the highest we’ve ever been.”

The hospital now has 236 intensive care beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, he said, compared with just 35 in April.

Staff have set up tents outside the hospital to expand capacity, he said, adding that the…

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