Medical professionals from the U.S. Navy were deployed Sunday to aid hospitals in four cities across southern Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, according to Gov. Greg Abbott's office, as nearly half the state's counties have recently been designated "red zones" by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Early on in the pandemic, hot spots were mainly tied to outbreaks in enclosed spaces, like meatpacking plants and nursing homes. Health experts are increasingly seeing small outbreaks in the community from families and friends gathering to people congregating at summer tourist destinations.
Five U.S. Navy teams were sent to four locations across Texas’ southern region: Harlingen, Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Rio Grande City.
"The support from our federal partners is crucial in our work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities throughout Texas," Abbott said in a written statement.
As the state continues to see record numbers of people hospitalized with the virus, local hospitals — particularly the Rio Grande Valley and the Coastal Bend — are being pushed to their limit because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks.
Ambulance operators in the Rio Grande Valley area described wait times of up to 10 hours to deliver patients to packed emergency rooms. Doctors and nurses are working extra shifts and have had to label and save their face masks for reuse.
As of Saturday, the four-county region that includes Harlingen had just 24 ICU beds available for a population of about 1.4 million people, according to the latest state data.