El Paso County grapples with surge of coronavirus cases: “They’re worried they may be next”

El Paso, Texas — The nation’s top health officials are warning we could be entering the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic. El Paso County is one of the nation’s coronavirus epicenters, where it has reported more than 22,000 new cases in the last two weeks. Texas has now surpassed one million coronavirus cases, which is the most in the nation.

Cases are rising in 47 states — and this week, there could be a record number of hospitalizations.

This is what it’s come to in El Paso: mobile morgues filled with a backlog of bodies. And it’s not enough — there will be 10 of the trucks in the next few days.

At the Perches Funeral Home, Nena Macias showed us a room filled to capacity. They have 220 people awaiting burial or cremation, most died of COVID-19.

“They’re scared. A lot of families have had a loved one pass away from COVID,” Macias explained. “They’re worried they may be next.”

Video footage shows trailers outside the El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner.

CBS News

Also happening Monday, Utah declared a state of emergency and ordered a mask mandate until further notice.

Inside hospitals, there’s a sobering reality for frontline workers. “I can’t tell you the number of times we have put a breathing tube in a patient, and that is the last time that they are ever able to speak to their family,” said Dr. Elizabeth Middleton of the University of Utah Hospital.

As coronavirus ravages the nation, no state is seeing a sustained decline in new cases compared to two weeks ago, and 27 have seen cases skyrocket at least 50%.

Wisconsin’s positivity rate is soaring, more than 1 of every 3 tests coming back positive.

St. Louis, Missouri, is warning of a shutdown in a week. Meanwhile, New Jersey will crackdown on indoor dining this week. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned of possible shutdowns if case numbers keep rising. 

The spread of the virus was not helped when fans rushed the field at Notre Dame after its win against Clemson on Saturday, and the large gatherings in many cities after the election was called for President-elect Joe Biden.

Philadelphia health officials are now recommending anyone attending to quarantine for 14 days.

Some grocery stores are reimposing limits on key items like toilet paper and wipes. For those on the front lines — not only in hospitals — but morgues and funeral homes that are used to dealing with death, it’s soul-crushing.

“It’s almost surreal,” Macias said. “Now almost everyone here knows somebody from their family or friend that’s caught up in it so it’s really hitting home here. And it’s scary.”

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