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More than 8,000 in Texas hospitals for 1st time since summer

November 20, 2020 GMT
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Volunteer Daisy Valdivia, left, of Forth Worth, Texas, takes down information from a person waiting in line to receive food items during a Tarrant Area Food Bank mobile pantry distribution event in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Thanksgiving holiday food items were distributed to over 5,000 families during the event that took place in a parking lot outside AT&T Stadium. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Volunteer Daisy Valdivia, left, of Forth Worth, Texas, takes down information from a person waiting in line to receive food items during a Tarrant Area Food Bank mobile pantry distribution event in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Thanksgiving holiday food items were distributed to over 5,000 families during the event that took place in a parking lot outside AT&T Stadium. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas surpassed 8,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients Friday for the first time since a deadly summer surge as doctors amplified pleas to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small.

The worsening surge of cases has El Paso County — where the pandemic is blamed for more than 300 deaths since October — now searching for prospective morgue workers. County leaders are offering $27 an hour for work they describe as not only physically arduous but “emotionally taxing as well.”

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The job posting comes as El Paso is already paying jail inmates to move bodies and has 10 refrigerated trucks as morgues began to overflow.

Texas reported more than 11,700 new cases Friday, the second-highest daily total of the pandemic. More than 8,100 virus patients are hospitalized, the most since early August.

The Texas Hospital Association, the industry group representing more than 500 hospitals, issued a new appeal for families to keep holiday gatherings “very small” as doctors and nurses struggle to keep up with rising caseloads.

”They are tired and emotionally drained. They are worried about their own families,” the organization said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has ruled out another shutdown and accused local leaders of not enforcing restrictions already in place.