El Paso, Texas, is breaking COVID-19 records as virus cases soar throughout US

Air Force medical personnel have been called in to help. County officials have requested more mobile morgues to keep pace with the deaths from the virus. “Nightline” speaks to those on the ground.
8:54 | 11/11/20

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Transcript for El Paso, Texas, is breaking COVID-19 records as virus cases soar throughout US
Tonight, cases of covid-19 rising in every single state in the country. The U.S. Surpassing 1 million new cases in November already. Now the pandemic hitting one city in Texas hard. Here's ABC's Matt Gutman. Reporter: High school football coach Charles brown loved his team, but even more, he loved his sprawling family. We did it! Oh, no, you better not! Reporter: But last month when he was diagnosed with covid, it was the family's turn to motivate the career coach. We were all telling him, just keep fighting, that's how you -- even that morning I said, you have to pinkie promise me that you will not stop fighting. Every time when we ended the phone call, it was "I love you." Then he would wave to Millie like this and I've blown kisses. That's what he taught everybody else and his players and his students. You fight till the very end. Then you turn it over to the lord, and the lord will do the Reporter: Dying of covid, the retired coach hoped to spare them one last anguish. Right at the end, he left us because he didn't want to be put on a ventilator and he knew there was no other choice. And he didn't want me to have to make that decision. Because he knew how bad it was. His lungs were like concrete. That's why he kept telling us, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." Reporter: Coach brown, who recently retired, one of the latest victims in the city where the spread of covid is described as uncontrollable. El Paso, Texas. Once dubbed the safest city in the country, imperiled now by the virus. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths breaking records. They're backing in this refrigerator truck into the medical examiner's office just over there. There are still more of these trucks headed this way. The state has shipped ten refrigerator trucks here, and county judge cardiego says more may be needed. How long would it take if you had the same trajectory of numbers going before you exhaust resources? They're saying about two weeks. 154 bodies in there. Why is that? We have such a massive number of positive cases, hospitals are at capacity. Reporter: The judge walking us through this personal heartbreak in his hometown. So you think that you have two friends who died who might be in one of these trucks? One for sure, but I have no clue. I've got friends that have died in the last we and I have no clue where the process is. Reporter: Texas isn't unique. Every single state in the country is seeing an increase in cases, infections, deaths. For the first time the U.S. Surpassing a staggering 10 million covid-19 cases, the highest number reported in any nation. And today alone, 131,000 new cases reported. Officials now from both sides of the aisle with dire messages. From New York -- We have one last chance to stop a second wave. Reporter: To Utah, where overcrowding in intensive care units is forcing governor Gary Herbert to declare a new state of emergency. I'm placing the entire state of Utah under a mask mandate until further notice. Reporter: In Indiana, state officials calling for retired health care workers to help. Ohio shattering a record with over 6,000 new cases in just the past 24 hours. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospitals there have run out of icu beds. But in the El Paso region, numbers have been climbing for weeks. This is a very vital moment -- Reporter: The increase so alarming that the U.S. Air force has deployed dozens of medical personnel from around the country. Every hospital in the area using those blue surge tents for overflow. Those tents were once used for disaster relief and detention centers housing thousands of separated children. They are N retrofitted to become emergency hospitals. Getting tested now similar in length to the scene two weeks ago when hospitals were already scrambling to keep up with incoming cases. Me as a nurse, it just kicked in. I've got to take care of these this is something we've got to S a community. Reporter: Vanessa is a nurse here at the university medical center. Does it get any easier dealing with these patients who are the sickest you've ever seen? No, it doesn't. You weren't used to seeing so many people die? No, of course not. I think -- we're human. Our emotions get to us. Sorry. It's just hard to see. Reporter: Among those who have died due to the virus here, 90% are Latino. Funeral homes are faced with an unrelenting procession of bodies. These refrigeration units -- Reporter: Christopher luhan is helping families say their final good-byes. Families need some type of closure, so they ask us if they can their loved one, one more time. Reporter: When I was here in October they were preparing. You have a walk-in refrigerator that's been full. Before this room held bodies, what was in it? It was a storage room and part of our music room for our chapel usage as we and we saw that we needed to do something. Reporter: And across the city, in another funeral home, they're making use of every corner. Now we've got converted chapel into a cooler. And a small area for -- to place caskets. Reporter: Once filled with rows of pews and prayer, now converted to hold up to 80 bodies. Tonight they tell us they are at 100% capacity. We never thought that we would have to disband to a bigger cooler. Reporter: In El Paso, going shopping has customarily been a family affair. Officials pointing to that custom as one of the causes of this exponential increase in cases. Big box stores like this one with 40% of the people contracting the virus at stores like this. Hours later that Walmart announcing it has temporarily closed for industrial cleaning. The surge in cases has divided local politics. At the end of October, county judge Ricardo salmonellego issued an order calling for a two-week shutdown of essential workers. El Paso's mayor said he wouldn't ask the local police force to enforce the rule. Texas' attorney general taking the proposed lockdown to court. It seems to me like people are playing politics with other people's lives. Well, they're not used to el Paso. We've got the reputation that el Paso doesn't make a lot of decisions that are not made by the state. We're so isolated in this area. We get -- it's hard to get the same economic development money. So this is no different. This is one more step in saying, you know, you shouldn't have the Reporter: Help cannot get here fast enough. The news of the first safe and effective trials for vaccine for the virus providing hope. If a vaccine is approved by the end of the year, pfizer expects to produce enough vaccine to cover 25 million people. Health care providers and seniors in nursing homes will be the first to receive it. Dr. Smith was the first to join the human trials. Now she's happy to help bring an end to the pandemic. As an African-American female, knowing that this disease was affecting African-Americans and people of color disproportionately, I also wanted to be part of the race to a cure, not so much a cure, but something that could help prevent covid-19. Reporter: Back in El Paso, coach own's wife, Vicki, hoisting the loss and grief of 250,000 Americans. Is there one thing you're going to miss most about him? That he's not here. I can only say, he's not here physically with me. Because that -- especially for these last five years, we have done everything together. Reporter: Tonight the words of the coach remembered in his own home. We were taught, fight, and fix one obstacle at a time. That's all we can do, one thing at a time. One of the last things we said in his obituary was, because of your love, dad, we will make it through. And that's what will get us Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Matt Gutman in El Paso, Texas. Our thoughts are with coach brown's family.

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

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