Traveling nurse says COVID outbreak in El Paso “surpasses” New York, treatment options limited.


A traveling nurse said the coronavirus outbreak in El Paso, Texas, was worse than her experience working in COVID-19 units in New York, noting that treatment options in the city were limited.

Lawanna Rivers, a traveling nurse who has been practicing for 13 years, posted an almost hour-long video on Facebook on November 7th to share her experiences during her temporary work at University Medical Center in El Paso.

“Of all the COVID assignments I have participated in,” Rivers said in the video. “This is the one that left me with truly emotional scars. The facility I’m in now has surpassed my facility in New York.”

Rivers said that the local doctors did not treat COVID-19 patients aggressively compared to other doctors she worked with nationwide.

“I saw many people die who I believe should not have died,” Rivers said.

Rivers claimed that the hospital’s most outrageous policy was CPR for COVID-19 patients. Rivers claimed that the hospital did not allow more than three rounds of CPR for COVID-19 patients, for a total of six minutes.

According to Rivers, CPR typically consists of a sequence of chest compressions followed by the use of a manual resuscitator to help the patient breathe. The use of a manual resuscitator is often referred to as “suctioning.

Rivers stated that the hospital did not allow her to “ventilate” her patients during CPR because it would result in “too much exposure” to COVID-19 for the nurses. Rivers said she had not experienced this policy anywhere else.

The University Medical Center told Washington Newsday on Thursday night in a statement that they are sympathetic to Rivers’ experience but cannot verify the events she mentions in her video.

“After watching the video, while we cannot fully verify the events expressed, we have sympathy and compassion for the difficult physical and emotional toll this pandemic is taking on thousands of healthcare workers here and across our country,” said Ryan Mielke, the hospital’s Director of Public Affairs. “This special travel nurse was at the UMC for a short time to help El Paso cope with the increase in COVID-19 patients.

According to Reuters, Texas was the first state to exceed one million cumulative coronavirus cases on November 7. The state currently also accounts for more than 10 percent of the total cases in the United States.

Last month, district judge Ricardo Samaniego issued an emergency ban and an order to stay at home in El Paso. The order was supposed to expire on Wednesday, but Samaniego extended it until December 1 or until COVID-19 hospital stays are below 30 percent. The current hospitalization rate in El Paso is 51 percent.

A Texas court of appeals stopped Samaniego’s order on Thursday night. The case, which was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a group of restaurant owners, found that the order contradicted the nationwide measures of Texas Governor Greg Abbot, who in early October restored some venues to 75 percent utilization.

Rivers did not respond in time for publication to Washington Newsday’s request for comment.


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