El Paso hospitals, funeral homes pushed to the brink by COVID-19 surge

ABC News’ Matt Gutman reports from El Paso, Texas, where there’s been a 500% increase in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks.
6:52 | 10/21/20

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Transcript for El Paso hospitals, funeral homes pushed to the brink by COVID-19 surge
Corona virus hospitalizations are now on the rise in 42 states nearly one million new cases confirmed in this country just since the beginning of October. There's so sense of despair sitting in for many in cities like El Paso, Texas where the situation is getting worse our chief national correspondent Matt Gutman has this report. Christopher Lu on Coles himself eight last responders. Hundred students ever since the out of control Covert surge in El Paso began he said but steady procession of bodies. He's been delivered to his funeral home a grim job in the greenest of times. With hospital restrictions keeping families from being with their loved ones in the hospital it is now to people like glue hunt to facilitate. A final goodbye. As we've just close usually you know. Specific and see either of them one last time before we do cremation or before we do very. The funeral home industry here has had to accommodate that influx and Duhon is done his best to try to maintain the dignity you'll be dead. As they await their last rites. So you this whole refrigerator it's been fooled before his health problems were within salute yeah. And art or music or. He uses his. And we saw we usually do something. And he's not the only ones to trolls this city funeral homes are transforming communities in anticipation of receiving even more Covert victim so now we've got. Converted. This child born to a cooler. And has small area burden to base cascades the space that once housed in rows of pews and prayer. It's now been converted to hold. Up to eighty bodies we never thought that we were. I was he expand. To a bigger. El Paso was known for being the safest city in America but the virus here hitting the city look at tidal wave and these past two weeks shown it is far from C from co lead. The city's seen a 500%. Spike in cases. Create a situation of course because we've never seen numbers like these before we have honorable community. Because we have a lot of individuals that hit underlying medical conditions. Officials now describing the situation is out of control its spread of cove eight. Uncontrollable. And at the icu from the university medical center in El Paso there is a rush to save the living. Me as a nurse they just can't do you know what I gotta take care of these people that doesn't mean that we come into the community. El Paso up until recently had feared relatively well with its handling of Kobe cases. Today it's a different story. Does it get any easier dealing with these patients who are feeling the sickest you've ever seen. Honestly I wish I could tell unions Yzerman now it doesn't you weren't used to see so many people die. Now of course I'm making. You know our human. Emotions get to and. Considering. The city's mayor leading the search on young people and co fatigue. People are tired of it I think especially this millennial generation from from the 29 do. From the twenty to 39 year old these are just they're just flat out. Frustrated in time. Our nationwide cases arising an average of 15%. Each week and one in five U was hospitals are now reporting. More than 80% of their icu beds filled. That's higher than at any point during the pandemic so far and hire cases inevitably lead to more deaths and the human told. He's always personal the folks at the purchase funeral home have dealt with hundreds of deaths over the past year but one was particularly painful. Can close off. Mr. Harrison Johnson he passed away from yourself welcome home also bishop and pasture. Curable only it's been tough for everyone in our team. Harrison Johnson was a beloved pastor he was also a funeral home director at the purchase funeral home it was his sweet voice that often filled a chapel. It has now been converted in to a cooler the man who spent decades comforting that the read fought covad complications for four months. Finally succumbing to Kobe to last Thursday. We need. Hollywood's wartime for a pass during the and then coming back into the general business and been and or director stuff like that that was just something. At the yen to keep it lost the ability to talk. But not the ability to communicate. He was now than that but he was saying I love you too you know and and move OK you know so we're just waiting for that next morning. But for the big man with the even bigger smile. Tomorrow never came. But the smile never came. Powerful words ever Matt Gutman. He joins us now in El Paso a not basing that it's a community this very much connected to Mexico and New Mexico how does a travel between communities in countries affect the situation there. Cool initially during the pandemic travel from Mexico apparently. Was one of the things that really set off. Kobe here on this side of the or a quarter of Juarez is just a couple of miles away from where we are right now. And it's not that there were so much more Covert on the other side it's that there are. Dual citizens and Americans living on the Mexican side of the border. Came here for better or better medical care bombed they are trying to curtail travel as much as possible at this point obviously commerce is so important so there's a limit to that. But is certainly something on the radar. A city county and state officials here. And that you've of course been covering this since March going from hot spot to hot spot is there anything you're seeing right now that makes this particular moment feel different. And the scale of it Lindsay you know that we're out here earlier you can see this that ten. That housed testing site behind me there wrapping up now but there must have been a thousand cars here the line was probably a mile long Tom. Last week there was a 500%. Increase. Over the previous two weeks in cold in case it's we're just at the hospital where a nurse. And he saw in the piece it was weeping because she tries to give that human touch with her patience but there are so many of them and the people in her ward right now Lindsey. Twenty year old thirty year old forty year old fifth year olds and an eighty year old. Young people people our age and it is kept hitting home in those doctors and nurses here in communities like El Paso all the way in in the heart of America Lebanese communities so they too are susceptible and once they start to go down. It is going to be extremely dangerous and extremely scary in places like this. But he really impacting all walks of life all ages Matt Gutman thanks so much for your reporting.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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