More FEMA trailers, deaths under investigation, as COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record high

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — City and County officials reported nine new COVID-19 related deaths Tuesday morning as well as record-shattering hospitalizations at 1,076 and 319 patients in the ICU.

With these numbers as of Tuesday, El Paso has more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than most states across the country and adding more mobile morgue trucks for a total of 10.

Sunset Funeral Homes said they also had the option to accept FEMA morgue trailers outside their locations, but some say they opted out for now.

“We’re doing everything we can in our power not to have that in place so that everyones loved one can be in a dignified manner in our care,” Christopher Lujan, manager of Sunset Funeral Homes, said.

However, the funeral home didn’t turn down mobile morgues because they weren’t seeing a spike in deaths. Lujan said they anticipated this would happen and prepared for it.

“That’s why back when this pandemic started we added three large walk-in refrigeration units inside our facilities ’cause we knew we were going to need them,” Lujan said.

Lujan said in just one day at the four Sunset Funeral Homes locations across El Paso, they planned services for 26 to 28 virus-related deaths.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing the demise of many COVID patients,” Lujan said.

On Tuesday, the City reported 365 deaths under investigation. This number is up by 30 from the day before and up 57 since Saturday.

  • Nov. 7: 308 deaths under investigation were reported
  • Nov. 8: 325 deaths under investigation
  • Nov. 9: 335 deaths under investigation
  • Nov. 10: 365 deaths under investigation

However, funeral homes said this doesn’t necessarily delay the funeral services or planning process.

“The only delay would be to receive a death certificate but we don’t need one to do a burial,” Lujan said. “If we’re doing a cremation, we do need to have a death certificate signed.”

Lujan said at the end of each week, local funeral homes meet with health officials to urge doctors to sign death certificates as quickly as possible knowing that a person died from the virus.

“Most of the times when we do get someone that’s been tested, waiting for results usually we’ll find out a couple days after the burial they were COVID-19 positive,” Lujan said.

Jacob Cintron, president and chief executive officer of El Paso County Hospital District, said he believes the area hospitals and the added support staff is well prepared now more than ever.

“UMC and other hospitals in the community had all worked together to develop a plan in preparation for this surge,” Cintron said.

Cintron said if it becomes necessary for patients to be transferred to other hospitals in other towns, that would be covered by the State and that would be stable patients that can handle a flight.

However, Cintron said the main challenge comes to the public doing its part in slowing the spread until an effective vaccine becomes available.

“The biggest weakness I see is getting our numbers down,” Cintron said. “Because if we can do that now, immediately, we won’t feel the effects from that, but we’ll see it in a few weeks, but it will be a big help for us,” Cintron said.

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