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Gov. Abbott calls on Department of Defense to help fight COVID-19 in West Texas

El Paso city leaders want folks to not just stay home, but they also want folks to stay away from family.

EL PASO, Texas — On Friday, 18 more families in El Paso made funeral arrangements instead of weekend plans. COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the area. 

This week, Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Department of Defense for help.

"Our ongoing partnership with the federal government is crucial to our efforts in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations in El Paso," Abbott said in a press release. 

The U.S. Air Force Medical Specialty Teams will consist of 20 military medical providers.

Each team will support three El Paso city hospitals: the University Medical Center of El Paso, the Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus and the Las Palmas Del Sol Medical Center.

"I thank the Department of Defense for providing these resources to the El Paso community and for working alongside the Lone Star State to mitigate this virus,” Abbott said.

El Paso city leaders want folks to not just stay home, but they also want folks to stay away from family.

“There is significant spread coming from family and non-family gatherings,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said. “It is imperative that we stop doing this.”

On Nov. 6, the county health authority reported 1,049 people hospitalized and 311 in intensive care. So far, 40 people have been transported to hospitals throughout Texas.

The governor started sending extra resources on Oct. 12, including personnel from Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) and Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

On Oct. 25, TDEM set up an overflow site to expand hospital capacity. The extra beds are inside the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center and have a capacity up to expand to 100 beds.

“It's coming from shopping at primarily the large, big box retailers. Shopping in El Paso, given our culture or nature, is a family event,” said Margo.

Retailers stepped up cleaning. Walmart shut its doors on a Saturday.

The health leaders urge one person per family to buy only what’s needed for now.

Hector Ocaranza, MD, MPH, co-chair for El Paso United COVID-19 Transition Task Force, asked the public to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in their own home and gather with family virtually. 

“We really need to make an effort not to gather personally, but we need to continue sharing the love and in a virtual way,” Ocaranza said.

The City asked the Texas Funeral Commission to bring more people to help manage burials.

For now, five refrigerated trucks will hold the dead until their family can say goodbye.

The county judge ordered everyone to stay home and established a curfew. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to stop that order. On Friday, a state district judge ruled the shutdown can remain in place.

The state will appeal.

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