“We ask God to cure our city, father, of this disease,” Zapata said on the live broadcast.
Inside the house, looking out the front glass door, was her friend Carla Balderas, who was quarantined because of the Covid-19, along with her 9-year-old son Reinaldo. Missing was Sammy, Carla’s husband. He was in the local hospital, battling the coronavirus.
As Zapata scanned the camera to show his surroundings, more than a dozen cars could be seen parked in front of the house, its occupants following the live broadcast from inside their vehicles, to protect themselves from Covid.
Zapata reflected on the moment in an interview with CNN, which he described as a cry of mercy given the great pain and suffering he was experiencing in his small oil town of Iran, west Texas, with a population of ‘about 1,200 inhabitants.
“We had had Covid before, but never with that magnitude,” he said.
It seemed like almost everyone in Iraan knew someone who was fighting Covid-19. Over a two-week period this month, 119 people tested the virus and 50 tested positive, according to Iraan General Hospital CEO Jason Rybolt. It is a positivity rate of 42%.
“[I’m] “Very concerned about trying to make sure they have the health care they need,” Rybolt said.
Although the city is small, it could be seen as a microcosm of what could take place across the state, as the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations remains high and Gov. Greg Abbott continues to fight mandates. of masks.
“Fight for your life”
Zapata says he doesn’t know how the outbreak began in his city. But he says Sammy tested positive for coronavirus before his wife Carla. Carla lost her sense of taste and smell. Sammy had trouble breathing.
“Every time he moved, he started coughing,” Zapata said.
A few days after testing positive for Covid-19, Zapata said, Sammy was admitted to Iraan General Hospital, a 14-bed rural facility. Her condition deteriorated rapidly, Zapata said, and the hospital did not have the intensive care she needed. That’s when Zapata began praying for an ICU bed to release (anywhere) his friend Sammy.
“It was hard,” Zapata said in a broken voice. “I remember three times Carla texting me and telling me they thought they had a bed. And I would say, ‘I’m praying.'”
For the past few weeks, the number of beds available in the ICU across the state has been low. There are currently 372 beds available in the ICU, according to the latest state data. The nearest medical centers in Iraan that offer ICU care are located in Midland-Odessa and San Angelo, Texas, each about 100 miles away.
“It could take 12 hours. It could take 36 hours, you never know how long it will take,” Rybolt said of the time it takes for a bed to open.
Sammy was admitted to the hospital on a Thursday, Zapata said, and was taken to a San Angelo hospital that Saturday. Sammy’s family broadcast live footage of him being sent out of the hospital on a stretcher and loaded into a helicopter.
“Fight for your life,” someone could be heard shouting at the live broadcast. “We love you, Sammy.”
At least one Iraqi resident has been moved outdoors for care due to a lack of available beds in the ICU in Texas, Rybolt said.
Mary Jo Jernigan was moved to New Mexico. According to the couple’s daughter, her husband Mike got Covid-19 and headed to San Angelo.
The school closed, as did the city building
Last week, the school district closed after just five days of classes because about a quarter of staff and 16 percent of students became infected or exposed to Covid-19, according to independent school district superintendent Iraan -Sheffield, Tracy Canter.
“Over the last week, we’ve seen more Covid cases for staff and students than throughout the school year, last year, during school,” Canter said.
For now, the closure should last until August 30, depending on the situation. Meanwhile, there is no virtual or remote learning, the superintendent told parents in a letter. He also asked everyone to come forward to stop the spread of the virus.
“Make sure students really take advantage of this opportunity to quarantine them. This means that students and staff will only be quarantined with the immediate family. They should not be out of the community or stay with friends. The only way this will work is if everyone does their part, “Canter wrote.
The beloved football season is postponed, the return home is in balance and city council members decided to close the city building to residents.
“For me, this is very serious,” said Darren Brown, the mayor of Iran.
Brown says there are no vaccination rates for the city.
The city council voted to postpone delay rates for water and gas utilities and stop utility disconnections for at least a month. Residents will be able to make payment arrangements if they are unable to pay utility bills.
“Sammy is with Jesus”
With so many people in quarantine, the small town of Iran is quieter than normal. There is no rush in the morning or afternoon to drop off and pick up students at school. And on a Friday night, the football stadium was tremendously quiet.
To make matters worse, the city begins to cry.
Sammy died last Thursday.
He died five days after an ICU bed became available to him and a few hours after CNN’s interview with Zapata.
Zapata returned to Facebook to thank everyone who had joined her in prayer just a week earlier.
“Thank you to everyone who prayed … Sammy is with Jesus,” Zapata’s message said.
Sammy’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the city’s football stadium, according to his obituary, which also says the “infectious smile, laughter and love he had for his family” will be loved by those who he left behind.
What lesson could the rest of the country learn from this small Texas town? Zapata says it’s very simple.
“Love your neighbor … today it could be me, tomorrow it could be you.”