A rural hospital in Texas has been forced to set up “death panels” to decide which patients will be treated for COVID-19 and who will be sent home to die.
The southern US state – along with Florida – has suffered an enormous surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, recording thousands of new cases every day.
More than 5100 people in Texas have died from the disease so far and nearly 400,000 people have been infected.
It comes as another type of disaster, Hurricane Hanna, swept across the Texas coast over the weekend, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
By Sunday, the Category 1 hurricane had weakened to a tropical depression after ripping down power lines and flooding roadways.
At many Texan hospitals, healthcare workers are struggling to keep up with the rising number of sick patients being wheeled through their doors.
The situation has become particularly dire in Starr County, with officials blaming social gatherings for spreading the virus.
Inundated with coronavirus cases, the Starr County Memorial Hospital has been forced to set up an ‘ethics’ committee to decide which patients are most likely to survive the virus and should receive treatment, and those with low chances of survival who will be sent home to die.
The reasoning behind the committee is to ease the pressure on the small hospital’s very limited resources so doctors can focus on treating patients with the greatest chances of survival.
“We are seeing the results of socialisation during the 4th of July, vacations, and other social opportunities,” wrote Starr county Judge Elroy Vera on the county’s Facebook page.
“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.”
The ‘critical care’ guidelines used to determine who survives and who dies at the hospital have been called “death panels” by some critics of the Trump administration.
The phrase is an adoption of the same term used by Republican critics of former US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms when they falsely claimed that “death panels” would be used to decide who received critical care.
Florida coronavirus cases pass New York
Florida now holds the grim title of being the second-worst US state hit by the coronavirus after overtaking New York, according to a Reuters tally.
California remains No.1.
Total virus cases in Florida jumped by 9300 to 423,855 on Sunday, placing the Sunshine State behind California, which has 448,497 cases.
New York is now in third place with 415,827 cases, but still has the highest death toll of any US state with more than 32,000 deaths.
In Florida, nearly 6000 people have died from the virus.
Despite surging case numbers, the state’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said he will not introduce mandatory face mask rules.
He has also been pushing for schools to reopen in August.
After New York, Texas has the most total coronavirus cases at 391,000.
So far, more than 146,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 – nearly a quarter of the global death toll.
There are nearly 4.2 million confirmed cases in the country.