Doctors share sobering stories as coronavirus cases spike

Southern hospitals pushed to the brink amid pandemic
Southern hospitals pushed to the brink amid p... 03:55

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 6:56 PM EDT

Texas on Thursday recorded its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began: 129. Testing centers are jammed, and doctors are sharing sobering stories of the crisis unfolding in emergency rooms. 

In the overwhelmed Rio Grande Valley, COVID-19 patients at some hospitals are spilling into the hallways, and a conference room has become a temporary morgue.

"I know people hear these stories over and over, but it's very different when the person you're putting into a body bag is your next-door neighbor for 50 years, your mom's best friend," said Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez. 

"You walk into warehouses of people where you have 40, 45 people that are on stretchers, on life support, on ventilators — prone, exposed," he added. 

The situation has become so dire that four Texas counties have ordered refrigerated trucks to help store bodies. In South Texas, there are so many patients that a hotel has been converted into a hospital. 

Texas isn't alone. Florida reported 156 deaths on Thursday, setting its own fatality record. 

A top White House official said closing indoor bars and wearing masks will help stem the spread of the virus. "We know that 50, 60, 70% in some areas are traced to a single bar," said Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir. 

In California, some are still fighting over wearing masks. In one grocery store, a man without a mask was pepper-sprayed during an argument with another customer. 

More than half of all states now have mask mandates. But in Georgia, where cases are surging, the governor signed an order last night that bans cities from enacting them. 

When asked what he would say to those who don't believe the situation is dire, Melendez said, "Come with me, spend the day… help me talk to 37 people whose family died that day."