Military steps in to help in El Paso hospitals amid devastating COVID-19 surge


EL PASO, Texas (KFOX) - As El Paso’s healthcare workers give their all in the struggle against COVID-19, hospitals are getting some much-needed help from the military.

“We are dealing with a pandemic unlike any other,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Blake Pfaff said.

With El Paso hospitals and ICUs over capacity since last month due to one of the worst COVID-19 surges in the country, three Air Force medical teams have spent the past two weeks deployed to aid in the fight.

“We came over here to University Medical Center. We onboarded here with medical staff who showed us around the hospital. After that, we hit the ground running and started working in some of the critical care sections and emergency medicine rooms,” Pfaff said.

He is a member of the team at UMC, where the COVID-19 ICU is drawing comparisons to a war zone.

“A lot of the people I work with have described it similar to Afghanistan, Iraq. There’s just a large amount of patients that were taking care of and a lot of critically sick patients,” Pfaff said.

El Paso has seen a wave of deaths among COVID-19 patients that has overwhelmed the county morgue, with the county having to call in the National Guard to work through a backlog of nearly 240 bodies.

The Air Force teams say they’re taking pride in the patients they have been able to save.

“We do have some patients unfortunately losing their lives,” Pfaff said. “But I’d rather focus on the patients we are taking care of, the ones that we are able to take off the emergency ventilators.”

Although members of the military are often called heroes for their service, the medical teams say the spotlight belongs on the healthcare workers who have been saving lives in El Paso since the pandemic began.

“They’re the real heroes. Were just here in support of them,” Pfaff said.

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