A Texas county said it was forming a committee to decide which coronavirus patients were most likely to die and send them home to their families.
Starr County Memorial Hospital is overrun with coronavirus cases, and hospitals elsewhere in Texas and in nearby states are also full, officials said.
The county's health authority said the "situation is desperate" and "there is nowhere to put these patients."
He said that for some patients "we believe they will be better taken care in the love of their own family and home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone."
Starr County had successfully avoided a large outbreak in the pandemic's early days. Some officials said the Texas governor's decision to reopen the state was the reason for the surge.
A hospital in Starr County, Texas, is so overrun with coronavirus cases that officials there said it would choose which patients to use its resources on and send those most likely to die back home to their families.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Dr. Jose Vasquez — the health authority for Starr County — said the county was creating guidelines to help health workers decide how to use resources on patients with the best chance of survival.
Vasquez added that a committee would decide which patients were most likely to die at Starr County Memorial Hospital — the only hospital in the county — and would send them home.
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"The situation is desperate," he said Tuesday. "We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering."
Vasquez said the county sends coronavirus patients daily to other parts of Texas and to other states, but that hospitals in both Texas and nearby states were now overwhelmed.
"There is nowhere to put these patients. The whole state of Texas and neighboring states have no ICU beds to spare for us," he said, Border Report reported.
The decision is reminiscent of the decisions made by doctors in Italy in March, when that country was being ravaged by the virus. They said they had to choose who to save because of limited resources.
Italy has since brought its outbreak under control.
Texas has become a coronavirus hotspot in recent weeks, with more than 331,000 cases and 4,700 deaths recorded.
"We are going to have these committees reviewing each case," Vasquez said.
He added that for some patients, "We believe they will be better taken care in the love of their own family and home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone," CBS News reported.
Starr County had successfully fought the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.
But Vasquez said cases started to increase "in an exponential and alarming way" after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to reopen the state from late April, CBS News reported.
Joel Villarreal, the mayor of Rio Grande City — one of the cities in Starr County — said, "What we did here was a model for the rest of the nation to follow, but it was lost."
Texas state data shows that the county, which has 64,000 residents, went from 642 coronavirus cases on July 1 to 1,519 cases on July 23.
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera issued an emergency stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus on Wednesday.
It said that people are "ordered to shelter-at-home in their residence" and that businesses are recommended and encouraged to suspend any activities that can't be done curbside, as a drive-thru, or as take-out.
Vera also wrote on the county's Facebook page on Thursday that the county was "seeing the results of socialization during the 4th of July, vacations, and other social opportunities."
"Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones," he said.
"This is what we did not want our community to experience."
He urged people to stay home: "We can turn this around in two weeks. WE CAN DO IT. STAY HOME as much as possible. God bless you."
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