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Texas storm victims are facing a now-familiar battle: Covid


While most Texans had more than enough to worry about in last week’s icy storm that led to power outages and water problems, some, like Tania Delacruz, had an added woe: Covid-19.

For Delacruz, it started with body aches before the storm. Then, on the coldest night in south Texas, Delacruz’ oxygen levels dropped as her temperature rose.

“It was pretty bad, because even though you try to cover up with all the blankets you can find, I was still feeling cold,” she told CNN from her bed at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, where she landed last week.

And the colder it got, the worse the coughing attacks were, she said.

Cornelio Lopez was recuperating from Covid-19 at home, on oxygen, when the electricity went out, and then the batteries on the oxygen machine died.

Without oxygen, he just falls to the floor, Lopez, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, told CNN in Spanish. Now he’s recovering at UMMC.

Sandra Aguirre’s family sought warmth in a hotel, while Aguirre, ill with Covid-19, was hospitalized.

Three other family members also have Covid-19.

“I was here, and all I could do was worry about my kids,” she said.

Last week’s winter storm affected the entire state of Texas, leaving at least 29 dead there and millions without power in the freezing cold for days.

While UMMC is seeing fewer Covid-19 patients recently as cases across the country decline, health care providers say they worry cases will soon be on the rise again after people gathered with each other and in shelters to stay warm last week.

“A lot of people gathered,” said Dr. Joseph Varon, UMMC’s chief medical officer. “They didn’t care about Covid.”

“We had a bunch of shelters open to keep people warm, and you know a shelter is a giant petri dish,” Varon said, “so I do expect in the next few days we’re going to have a small spike in the number of cases.”

People were also rushing to hardware stores and supermarkets ahead of the storm, and all the social distancing rules were forgotten, he said.

UMMC was among the many Texas hospitals that lost power and then water last week.

“The storm was absolutely devastating. It was chaotic to say the least,” Varon said. When they ran out of water, “we thought we were going to get some help from other hospitals, but they were in the exact same position as we were.”

The hospital couldn’t use its operating room, and some nurses were there for four and five continuous days, he said.

Five members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Board of Directors, including the chair and vice chair, resigned Tuesday, acknowledging “the pain and suffering of Texans” during the power outages.

ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said Wednesday the storm not only increased demand throughout the whole state at the same time, it also affected every type of energy generation.

“This affected the system across the board due to the intensity of the weather we saw and the duration of the weather we saw,” Magness said.

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