EL PASO, Texas -- At a Covid-19 briefing Thursday afternoon, City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza described a "dire situation" as he urged El Pasoans to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings that could further fuel the current surge overloading hospitals.
Ocaranza said El Pasoans contracting the virus are four times more likely to end up in the hospital than the national average, based on CDC data.
The city's Covid-19 dashboard for the first time during the pandemic on Thursday showed "El Paso Hospital Status Indicates Readiness: NO."
That statistic was underscored by the fact that there were 52 patients currently being cared for at a makeshift hospital set up by state and federal officials at the El Paso Convention Center and 84 patients airlifted from El Paso to hospitals in other cities across Texas.
Despite what the city's dashboard indicated, Mayor Dee Margo maintained: "We are just fine on our health care and our supplies."
The mayor said that with 1,500 medical personnel recently sent to El Paso to assist local doctors and nurses and an adequate stock of personal protective equipment, there was no rationing of care occurring and no need to do so.
Margo's comments generated an immediate response from Dr. Ogechika Alozie, a prominent El Paso infectious disease specialist.
He questioned the mayor's choice of words, tweeting: "We have to do a better job of messaging. Crisis Communication 101 - Rule 1: Don't over reassure. Over-reassuring makes frightened people feel abandoned/Candor about present bad news can be paradoxically calming."
Alozie also provided a link to materials from a national medical seminar that reinforced the point he was making.
In an interview with ABC-7 after the briefing, Margo sought to qualify his remarks and acknowledged the challenges facing local hospitals.
"We're hitting probably 0 per cent of the capacity of those. And that's why we have the overflow, the tents and everything else," the mayor said. "What I'm saying is that we will adapt. And it changes everyday. It changes from the morning to the afternoon. You'll see the number of people that leave the ICU, or the new that increase or leave. So it's a variable thing. The thing is we're managing it."
The entire news conference by the mayor and other city officials can be viewed in the video player below.
Take2 - we have to do a better job of messaging. Crisis Communication 101 - Rule 1: Don't over reassure. Over-reassuring makes frightened people feel abandoned/Candor about present bad news can be paradoxically calming - https://t.co/LPjICRrHSa— Oge A (@ogeisimo) November 19, 2020