CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A downgraded Hanna continued charging across the borderland of South Texas and northeastern Mexico, where flooding remained the biggest threat Monday in a region that was already reeling from a surge in cases of the coronavirus.
In the Mexican city of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, the rains shook tents in a refugee camp housing an estimated 1,300 asylum seekers, including newborns and elderly people, who have been waiting for months for court dates under a U.S. immigration policy informally known as “Remain in Mexico.”
Hanna, downgraded to a tropical depression, passed over the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday with winds near 50 mph (85 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. It unloaded more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in some areas, and more was expected.
Border communities whose health care systems were already strained by COVID-19 cases — with some patients being airlifted to larger cities — found themselves grappling with Hanna. There were no immediate reports of any deaths on either side of the border.
Dr. Ivan Melendez, the health authority in Hidalgo County, Texas, was treating a patient overnight at a hospital when he and a nurse noticed water streaming down a wall and pooling on the floor. The water was flowing through a vent in the room, which had been retrofitted with a fan to create negative pressure and prevent the virus spreading through the hospital.
After driving home in the storm in the middle of the night, Melendez was trapped Sunday morning in his home by downed trees and had no electricity. He used the phone to discuss whether to put a 58-year-old woman on a ventilator, a decision he felt uncomfortable making without seeing the patient in person.
“You look at the people’s eyes,” he said. “You’ll know if they’re in despair.”
Another doctor decided to place the woman on the ventilator, he said later.
Henry Van De Putte, CEO of the Red Cross’ Texas Gulf Coast chapter, said the organization would open more shelters with reduced capacity to ensure social distancing. Volunteers and people seeking refuge will undergo temperature checks, and a medical professional will be assigned to each location, he said.
A community building known as the “Dome” in Mercedes, Texas, was set aside for evacuees who had tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus. Across the region, shelters were also opened in hotels, schools and gyms.
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