JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Juarez recorded its largest one-day spike in COVID-19 fatalities with eight, health authorities reported Friday. That brings the total number of deaths to 42 in this Mexican border city where health officials say the worst is not over.

“We know there will be an increased number of cases in the next weeks,” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua state Health Department in Juarez.

Most of the new fatalities are taking place inside clinic 35 of the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute), where a large number of the sick are hospitalized, some of them on ventilators.

In addition, the crisis is taking its toll on medical workers and hospital capacity. Eighteen doctors, nurses and other health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, including 12 in Juarez, Valenzuela said.

A few days ago, nurses at the IMSS staged a protest over an alleged lack of personal protective equipment for health workers who are not treating the infected directly but interact with colleagues who do. One of the nurses told Border Report that she had to send her children away to another city so as to not infect them.

Nurse gets free lodging after Tijuana hotel learns she slept in van to shield family

Valenzuela on Friday said a Chihuahua City hotel chain has offered dozens of free rooms there and at its Fiesta Inn franchise in Juarez so that medical workers don’t have to worry about spreading the virus at home.

Juarez residents are still not observing social distancing, and many aren’t wearing the required surgical masks. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

Also, the hospitals tapped to handle COVID-19 cases have reached 75 percent occupancy, so health authorities are preparing secondary treatment facilities for use, the official added. Some of those “secondary” facilities include mobile hospitals set up in the parking lot of hospitals and government buildings like Juarez City Hall.

Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has struggled to get its residents to comply with a stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines issued last month. On Thursday, Border Report spotted a dozen people outside an ATM machine not observing social distancing and half not wearing face masks, which are now required.

El Paso health officials, who are dealing with a crisis of their own, say they are closely monitoring developments in Juarez due to cross-border interaction. A Paso del Norte Health Foundation survey found that more than 60 percent of the residents of one city have relatives living in the other, and that visiting relatives is the main reason for crossing the border in this region.

The numbers

As of Friday morning, the state of Chihuahua was reporting 271 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 188 of those in Juarez. The state that borders both Texas and New Mexico had recorded 49 fatalities, 42 of those in Juarez.

On Thursday evening, the El Paso Department of Public Health reported 29 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 674, including 10 deaths. El Paso County had 33 patients hospitalized, and 21 of those were in intensive care, the department reported.

Residents in El Paso County will now be required to wear face masks or cloth coverings when out in public, El Paso’s mayor and county judge said Thursday afternoon.

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