The coronavirus surge in El Paso is a warning to all of us

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The U.S. is currently experiencing record numbers of coronavirus infection, and local healthcare systems are being quickly overwhelmed. As of last night, the county of El Paso, Texas has imposed a curfew for residents because of a major coronavirus surge in El Paso. Hospitalizations there have almost quadrupled in the month of October and county intensive care units surpassed capacity on Saturday, the Washington post reported.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot reduced restrictions on gatherings in restaurants and businesses across the state at the end of September with the caveat that the restrictions could only be lowered if hospitalization rates also stayed low. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. As businesses reopened, El Paso’s infection rates began to rise.

But some El Paso health officials say that the increase in infection rates — from less that 200 at the end of September to more than 800 now — has less to do with businesses reopening and more to do with people relaxing their personal precautionary measures. “It’s not the places that are open, but how the people are bringing their guard down,” Hector Ocoranza, a physician and the El Paso city-county health authority, told the El Paso Times.

El Paso is currently under stay-at-home restrictions and makeshift field hospitals are being constructed to try to care for the hundreds of people sick with COVID-19. Other states are taking heed and warning residents that the worst case scenario that we are witnessing in El Paso could happen anywhere.

“The situation we have right now is unsustainable,” Joe Dougherty, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, told The Washington Post. In other words, if we cannot curb or reduce the number of coronavirus infections, we are going to see more governmental restrictions like curfews and, sadly, the rationing of medical care in other states.

“Right now, you can talk about there being lots of little burning fires across the country,” Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University, told The Washington Post. But seemingly small fires like the one we’re seeing in El Paso are contagious. “We are set up for just a perfect storm — a conflagration,” Ranney said.

Health experts the world over have been warning that if we fail to continue our efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 — by social distancing and wearing masks — we are going to see more infections, more hospitalizations, and more deaths. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening. I, for one, am just hoping that enough Americans make it through the next eight days to create an America resilient enough to combat the White House’s casually fatal attitude towards the virus. Don’t let your guard down, wash your hands, and vote this unmasked administration out of power.