EL PASO, Texas — A 36-member Texas National Guard team arrived in El Paso on Saturday to assist the county morgue with the growing number of dead bodies as a result of Covid-19.
The team was mobilized “after completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week,” Texas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Seth Christensen told ABC-7.
“The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said of the guard deployment to the Sun City.
Margo also confirmed ABC-7's reporting on Friday that the city and county had secured a new central morgue location to add additional capacity. The location of that morgue will not be disclosed due to privacy concerns, according to the mayor.
“As we’ve seen a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, we are unfortunately also seeing a spike in deaths," Margo explained.
The pandemic is blamed for 853 deaths in El Paso County as of Saturday, including more than 300 since October. Jail inmates were being paid to move bodies and county leaders are in the process of hiring temporary morgue workers at a rate of $27 an hour.
In El Paso, there were 1,074 new Covid-19 cases and eight added deaths reported on Saturday. Statewide, the Texas health department on Saturday reported a one-day high of 12,597 new virus cases, nearly 20,500 dead since the pandemic began and more than 8,200 virus hospitalizations.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to support a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew in the county as mortuaries continue to be overwhelmed. The medical examiner’s office reported that at least 240 bodies were being held at the main morgue and in nine mobile morgues.