From the front lawn of her friend’s house, Vicki Zapata recently took a Facebook Live and broke down in tears while praying.
“We ask you, God, to heal our people, our father, from this disease,” Zapata said in the live broadcast.
Inside the house, looking through the glass door, was her friend Carla Balderas, who had been quarantined by Covid-19 along with her 9-year-old son, Rinaldo. Carla’s husband, Sami, who was in the hospital battling coronavirus, is missing.
When Zapata moved the camera to show his surroundings, more than a dozen cars parked in front of the house could be seen. Its passengers were watching the live broadcast from inside their cars to be safe from Covid-19.
Zapata spoke about that moment in an interview with CNN, describing it as a cry for mercy in light of the great pain and suffering in his small West Texas oil town called Iran, which has a population of about 1,000,200.
“We’ve had the virus before, but not on this scale,” he said.
Almost everyone in Iran seemed to know someone who was battling Covid-19. This month, 119 people have been tested for the coronavirus over a two-week period, and 50 people have tested positive, according to Jason Ribolt, chief executive of Iran General Hospital. This means a 42% positive rate.
“I am very concerned about society,” Ribault said. “They are very concerned about trying to ensure that they get the medical care they need,” he added.
While the city is small, it can be seen as a microcosm of what could happen across Texas as the number of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions remains high, and as Governor Greg Abbott continues to fight use mandates.
Zapata says he does not know how the outbreak began in his hometown. But he says Sami tested positive for coronavirus before his wife, Carla. Carla has lost her sense of taste and smell. Sami was having trouble breathing.
Every time he moved, he started coughing,” Zapata said.
Within days of being tested for the Covid-19 virus, Zapata said, Sami was admitted to Iran General Hospital, a 14-bed rural facility. He said his condition rapidly deteriorated, and the hospital did not have the intensive care it needed. It was then that Zapata began praying for the ICU bed, wherever he went, to be freed for his friend Sami.
“That was hard,” Zapata said. He recalls, “I can remember three times when Carla texted me and said they thought they had a bed. And I was like, ‘I’m praying.'”
A few weeks ago, the number of intensive care beds available across the state was low. Currently, there are 372 ICU beds available, according to the latest case data. The closest medical centers to Iran that provide intensive care unit care are in Midland Odessa and San Angelo, Texas, both of which are about 100 miles away.
“It could be 12 hours. It could be 36 hours, and you never know how long it’s going to take,” Ribolt said of the time it takes for a bed to become available.
Zapata said Sami was taken to the hospital on Thursday, and was flown to a hospital in San Angelo on Saturday. Sami’s family broadcast live footage of him leaving the hospital on a stretcher and by helicopter.
“Fight for your life,” said someone who could be heard shouting in the live broadcast. They added, “We love you, Sami.”
Ribolt said at least one Iranian resident has been moved out of state for care due to a shortage of intensive care beds in Texas.
Mary Jo Jernigan was transferred to New Mexico. Her husband, Mike, also contracted Covid-19, and flew himself to San Angelo, according to the couple’s daughter.
School and town hall closed due to Covid-19
Last week, the school district closed just five days after school because about a quarter of the staff and 16% of students contracted or were exposed to Covid-19, according to the director of the Iran Sheffield Independent School District. Tracy Kanter.
“Last week we saw more cases of the virus among staff and students than last year for the whole (school) year,” Kanter said.
For now, the closure should last until August 30, depending on the situation. In the meantime, there will be no virtual or distance education, the supervisor told parents in a letter. He also asked everyone to help stop the spread of the virus.
“Please make sure that students really take advantage of this opportunity to quarantine. This means that students and staff will only isolate their immediate families. They should not be outside the community or hanging out with friends. The only way things are going to work is if everyone does their part,” he wrote. Kanter.
The beloved football season has been postponed, Homecoming has been halted, and City Council members have decided to close down the town hall.
The beloved football season has been postponed, homecoming is at stake, and city councilors have decided to close the city block to residents.
“For me this is very dangerous,” said Darren Brown, the mayor of Iran.
Brown said data on the city’s vaccination rate is not available.
The city council has voted to defer late fees for water and gas bills and halt power outages for at least a month. Residents will be able to make arrangements if they cannot pay their bills.
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