Border city readies mobile hospital ahead of ‘serious’ COVID-19 outbreak

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Tent-like structure will shore up hospital bed capacity in city with a population in excess of 1.5 million; facility expected to serve primarily government workers

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Even though Juarez has only confirmed seven COVID-19 cases so far, the municipal government today began erecting a temporary mobile hospital capable of housing up to 20 patients in an emergency.

The white, tent-like structure is going up in the parking lot of Juarez City Hall. It’s part of an effort on the part of Juarez officials to increase the number of hospital beds in the city. Juarez has 956 hospital beds available in public and private hospitals, 29 isolation rooms and 29 acute-care beds, Mayor Armando Cabada said.

An aerial view of the mobile hospital at Juarez City Hall. (photo courtesy City of Juarez)

The mobile hospital should be completed by Monday, and 50 of the city’s medical care providers will be trained so the unit can become operational as needed. The facility would dispense care to government workers, primarily, the mayor said.

The hospital will be equipped with two examination areas, three portable toilets, two washing areas, a main air-conditioning unit, 50 lamps, 20 oxygen tanks, 30 oxygen masks, utility tables and an assortment of thermometers and personal protective equipment for care providers.

Cabada said Mexican health experts have come up with a “worst-case scenario” in which up to 2,500 residents could require hospitalization due to complications from the coronavirus, hence the need to shore up hospital capacity ahead of any “serious” outbreak. Juarez has 1.5 million inhabitants and, before the outbreak, was one of the busiest ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Meantime, the state of Chihuahua is awaiting the results of tests done on 20 patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19.

In a Friday morning teleconference, Dr. Arturo Valenzuela Zorrilla said the state that borders Texas and New Mexico to the north is holding steady with 11 confirmed cases so far, seven of them in Juarez. By comparison, El Paso, Texas across the border from Juarez on Thursday night was up to 78 cases.

“When a patient is suspected of carrying COVID-19 and is ambulatory, he is made to sign a document of self isolation. There are follow-up calls (to make sure he’s at home) and there may be home visits,” to verify the patient is complying, said Valenzuela, the ranking health authority in Juarez.

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