EL PASO — Coronavirus patients filled beds on one floor. Then two. Then the University Medical Center, a teaching hospital in El Paso, set up tents to care for patients in a parking lot. A downtown convention center became a field hospital. To free up even more space, the state began airlifting dozens of intensive care patients to other cities.
Local leaders clashed over what to do to quell the spiraling coronavirus crisis. The top county official ordered a lockdown and curfew. But the mayor disagreed, and the police said they would not enforce it. Then the state attorney general weighed in — a lockdown was unnecessary and illegal, he said.
And the patients kept coming.
“We discharge one patient, and there are two that come in,” said Wanda Helgesen, executive director of the local council on emergency and disaster preparedness.
El Paso, a border city of 680,000, now has more…