A record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with twin disasters in the tightly knit metropolitan area of 3 million people.

Health officials are blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and younger people going out to shop or conduct business.

The crisis — part of a deadly comeback by the virus across nearly the entire U.S. — has created one of the most desperate hot spots in North America and underscored how intricately connected the two cities are economically, geographically and culturally, with lots of people routinely going back and forth across the border to shop or visit with family.

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Pat Austin takes COVID-19 swabs in for testing at a state drive-through testing location Monday in El Paso, Texas. Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via AP

“We are like Siamese cities,” said Juarez resident Roberto Melgoza Ramos, whose son recovered from a bout of COVID-19 after taking a cocktail of homemade remedies and prescription drugs. “You can’t cut El Paso without cutting Juarez, and you can’t cut Juarez without cutting El Paso.”

In other developments Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, banned indoor dining and drinking in Chicago in one of the biggest retreats yet in the face of the latest surge. And Wisconsin’s governor pleaded with residents to voluntarily stay home as the state shattered records for daily cases and deaths. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order in March, but the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court struck it down two months later.

In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds at a convention center.

Read the full story here.

Governor bans indoor dining in Chicago as virus cases jump

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Surging COVID-19 cases in Chicago prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday to ban indoor dining and bar services and limit the number of people gathering in one place.

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown in September, announced new restrictions on Tuesday as virus numbers climb precipitously in parts of the state. Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via Associated Press

The rules taking effect Friday will force diners and bar patrons outdoors and shut down service at 11 p.m. No more than 25 people may gather at one time, or fewer if that number would exceed 25 percent of room capacity.

“We can’t ignore what is happening around us, because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring,” Pritzker said, referring to the start of the pandemic, when health care resources were pushed to the limit because of the overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases.

Chicago, which comprises Region 11 of the state’s 11 COVID-19 monitoring regions, joins six other regions subject to what the Pritzker administration calls “resurgence mitigations.” A day earlier, Pritzker imposed the restrictions on Region 10, Cook County outside of Chicago and Lake County to the north.

After a summer of declining case numbers – Illinois fared better than many other states, particularly in the South and West – they began climbing again in August and jumped precipitously this month. There were 4,000 new infections and 46 additional deaths Tuesday, bringing total cases to 382,985 with 9,568 deaths.

There were 2,758 hospitalized, an 86 percent increase from a month ago, and both intensive care patients at 595 and the 241 on ventilators represented increases in the 70 percent range.

Other regions which hit the mitigation bar did so when positive rates of COVD-19 test results topped 8 percent for three consecutive days. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state public health director, said the latest additions, Cook County on Monday and Chicago on Tuesday, have seen the troubling rise in numbers of sick people requiring inpatient treatment as well as a jump in positive test results.

“Based on current trends, we soon could face reduced hospital bed availability and overwhelming our health care systems,” Ezike said.

Massachusetts governor says virus surge driven by people under 30

BOSTON — The recent surge in confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts is being driven in large part by an increase among younger people, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

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Election official Nhan Tran wipes down a voting booth at Boston City Hall during early in-person voting on Monday in Boston. Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Whereas 15 percent of new cases in April were among people under age 30, now 37 percent of the new confirmed cases are people in that age group, the Republican governor said at a news conference at which he urged people to stop partying.

“According to our most recent data, about 300 people per day under 30 have contracted COVID-19, have tested positive for it, with about 38,000 people in this age group diagnosed since March,” he said.

More than half the new cases have been traced to social gatherings and household transmission, and there have been more reports of indoor parties as the weather has turned cooler, Baker said. He reminded people that outdoor trick-or-treating on Halloween is much safer than an indoor party.

“To keep case rates down, and help us not only keep people healthy, but also ensure that our hospitals continue to have the capacity they need to serve their patients, our young people need to be serious about dealing with COVID,” he said.

Baker also shed new light on the state’s decision last week to close indoor skating rinks for two weeks in response to an increase in cases linked to youth hockey games.

He blamed the closures on “irresponsible” parents and coaches who didn’t cooperate with state contact tracers, including some who refused to supply team rosters.

“Youth hockey needs to make some changes,” he said.

He also urged people to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to members of the same household, or if mixing households, limit the number of guests to as few as possible.

Canadian Thanksgiving may be cautionary tale for Americans as coronavirus surges

TORONTO — As the holiday season approaches amid a surge in novel coronavirus cases across the country, a Thanksgiving-related spike in Canada may serve as a cautionary tale for the United States.

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Hundreds of people lineup at the COVID-19 testing clinic on July 14 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

Case counts in much of Canada are climbing, even in parts of the country that imposed new autumn restrictions. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, and both provincial and federal officials have pointed to the holiday as a culprit.

“In some areas we are learning that gathering during the Thanksgiving weekend contributed to the elevated case counts we are seeing today,” Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, told reporters Tuesday in Ottawa. “Our actions matter.”

Before the holiday, officials advised Canadians to curtail their plans by limiting celebrations to those living under the same roof or moving the party online, but it is not clear how widely the advice was heeded.

In the United States, where Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in November, officials issued similar warnings. Last week, the United States hit an all-time high in new coronavirus cases, exceeding 80,000 in a day for the first time.

In an interview with CBS News earlier this month, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned that Thanksgiving events could lead to new cases.

“That is, unfortunately, a risk, when you have people coming from out of town, gathering together in an indoor setting,” he said. “It is unfortunate, because that’s such a sacred part of American tradition.”

But in both Canada and the United States, messaging around how to celebrate has been muddled, with officials at different levels of government offering seemingly conflicting guidance. Ontario Premier Doug Ford described his own holiday plans, then appeared to change them after critics pointed out that they contradicted his own government’s advice to celebrate only with those in one’s immediate household.

Canadian officials are now dealing with the aftermath of the holiday. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Deena Hinshaw, said last week that the Thanksgiving-related cases showed how the virus can exploit human interaction.

Read the full story here.

Birx says Bismarck, N.D. has worst virus protocols she’s ever seen

WASHINGTON — The White House coronavirus response coordinator says North Dakota’s capital city had the worst COVID-19 protocols she’s seen in her travels around the country.

Dr. Deborah Birx, whose tour has taken her to nearly 40 states, says she found the absence of face coverings and the lack of social distancing in Bismarck “deeply unfortunate” and a danger to public health.

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Dr. Deborah Birx, left, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, talks to state Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, North Dakota, during a round table discussion with state and local government and medical leaders on the campus of Bismarck State College on Monday, Oct. 26. Seated next to Dr. Birx is Gov. Doug Burgum, Lt.. Gov. Brent Sanford and Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general. Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP

North Dakota continues to rank first in the country for virus cases per capita in the last two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The Bismarck area has in recent months been a hot spot.

North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum has not ordered a statewide mask mandate, instead urging people to wear masks out of personal responsibility and care for others.

Burgum says he and Birx “have been in complete agreement since the beginning of this,” local media reported.

Russia imposes nationwide mask requirement

MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Tuesday have issued a nationwide mask requirement amid a rapid resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak.

Health authorities registered 16,550 new cases and 320 deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.

Russia’s public health agency, Rospotrebnadzor, ordered all Russians to wear masks in crowded public spaces, on public transport, in taxis, at parking lots and in elevators starting on Wednesday. The agency also recommended regional authorities put a curfew on entertainment events, cafes, restaurants and bars from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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Customers sit in a restaurant at Patriarshiye Prudy, a hip restaurant and bar district in Moscow, Russia, late Friday, Oct. 16. The outbreak in Russia this month is breaking the records set in the spring, when a lockdown to slow the spread was put in place. AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Russia has the world’s fourth-largest tally of more than 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases. The government’s coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 15,000 new infections every day since last Sunday, which is much higher than in the spring.

In total, Russia has reported more than 26,000 virus-related deaths.

Despite the sharp spike in daily new infections, Russian authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing a second national lockdown or shutting down businesses. Most virus-related restrictions were lifted during the summer.

Czech Republic average cases double in 2 weeks

PRAGUE — The Czech government is asking the Parliament to approve its plan to extend a state of emergency it declared a month.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the measure is needed “to protect the health and lives of the citizens.” The Parliament is expected to take a vote on the request to extend the state of emergency until Dec 3.

The rolling average of daily cases has risen in the past two weeks from 48 per 100,000 people on Oct. 12 to 115 on Monday.

Starting on Wednesday, the government is imposing more regulations, including nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. – 5 a.m. All stores must close on Sundays. Employees in state and private companies are recommended to work from home. The government says it won’t reopen elementary schools as planned on Monday because the rising infections.

The Czech Republic has 268,370 cases, about a third registered in the last week. There are 5,613 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

The nation recorded 2,365 deaths since March, with 748 confirmed in the last week.

New York’s public university system requiring students test negative before they can go home for Thanksgiving 

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s public university system is requiring students to test negative for the coronavirus before they can leave for Thanksgiving break in hopes of preventing community spread back home.

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras told The Associated Press that the system’s 64 colleges and universities must have plans by Nov. 5 to test about 140,000 students within 10 days before Thanksgiving break.

SUNY has planned to transition most colleges and universities to remote learning after Thanksgiving. SUNY will require colleges to isolate or quarantine any residential student who tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 in the 14 days before Thanksgiving break.

Tehran hits record high virus deaths

TEHRAN — Iran has reached another single-day record with 346 deaths. That brings the country’s total virus deaths to 33,299, the highest coronavirus toll in the Mideast.

Iran Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says daily coronavirus cases have also hit a record, with 6,968 reported. That brings Iran’s total number of infections to 581,824.

She says 4,995 COVID-19 patients are in serious condition.

Canary Islands to require negative tests for tourists

MADRID — Spain’s Canary Islands aim to pass a law this week demanding a negative COVID-19 test result from tourists wanting to visit the archipelago off northwest Africa.

Canary Islands President Ángel Víctor Torres says the measure will apply to both Spaniards and foreigners. New infections have been soaring across Spain except for the Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination that is 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) southwest of Madrid.

He said the law was being prepared even before the U.K. and Germany recently lifted travel restrictions to the Canary Islands. Those two countries account for more than half the archipelago’s 13 million annual visitors.

Any tourist without a certified document confirming a negative test result between 48 and 72 hours before their arrival won’t be allowed inside any accommodations on the island. The visitor will be asked to go to a local testing center at their own expense.

Officials in the Canary Islands have officially recorded almost 17,000 cases of coronavirus and 272 deaths.

French hospitals filling up with virus patients

PARIS — The French government is warning of possible new lockdowns as hospitals fill up wit COVID-19 patients and doctors plead for backup.

President Emmanuel Macron is convening top ministers and Prime Minister Jean Castex is meeting with lawmakers, unions and business lobbies as the government weighs its next steps in the fight against surging infections. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France-Inter radio that “we should expect difficult decisions.”

Among possible new measures for the hardest-hit areas are lengthening existing curfews, full confinement on weekends or all week and closing non-essential businesses.

Doctors describe growing pressure on emergency services and intensive care wards, where COVID-19 patients take up 54 percent of beds nationwide.

France is reporting more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people each week, and nearly 18 percent of tests are positive. It has reported Europe’s third-highest virus death toll, at more than 35,000 lives lost.

Kentucky governor urges residents to take stricter steps to curb infections

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor is urging people in the state’s counties hit hardest by the pandemic to take stricter steps to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear stressed Monday that he is only offering recommendations — not mandates.

Beshear says people should avoid hosting or attending gatherings of any size. He says employers should allow employees to work from home when possible, and noncritical government offices should operate virtually. Also, he says, in-person shopping should be reduced, with people opting to order online for pickup.

The recommendations are aimed at the 55 counties — nearly half of all Kentucky counties — with the highest infection rates. Those counties have a daily average of at least 25 new virus cases per 100,000 residents.

Mississippi governor expands mask mandate

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is expanding a mask mandate to seven additional counties to try to control the spread of the coronavirus as cases increase rapidly in some areas.

His new order takes effect Wednesday and lasts until at least Nov. 11.

Sixteen of Mississippi’s 82 counties will require people to wear face coverings when they are indoors away from their homes. Social gatherings in those 16 counties also will be limited to 10 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.

Reeves says the restrictions are in counties that have had at least 200 confirmed virus cases or at least 500 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents during a recent two-week period.


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