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Houston firefighters return home after weeks of helping COVID-19 patients in El Paso

HOUSTON – Five Houston firefighters have returned home after roughly five weeks of helping coronavirus patients in El Paso.

“We worked seven days a week, 12-hour shifts and the Houston Fire Department we took the night shifts,” Capt. Beau Moreno said.

Seven HFD members traveled across the state on Oct. 23 to help with the surge of COVID-19 cases in the region. Two are still there.

“Every patient that we saw was COVID positive,” Moreno said.

The captain made the trip expecting to help transport COVID-19 patients but he ended up working primarily as a nurse, tending to more than a dozen people.

“They were too sick to go home because they required medication and oxygen but they weren’t sick enough to be into like an ICU bed,” Moreno said.

There are an estimated 37,697 active cases in El Paso County, nearly double the 19,461 in Harris County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services COVID-19 dashboard. However, Harris County has roughly five times the population of El Paso County.

The paramedics worked in tents set up outside of a hospital. The state provided them with protective equipment and they were tested twice a week.

Moreno called the experience “humbling” and said he left with some new perspective.

“Looking back on it, I think it’s made me more cautious,” Moreno said. “I probably was not wearing my mask like I should’ve been but now all the time I’m wearing my mask.”