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Closed storefronts, overwhelmed hospitals and mobile morgues: El Paso residents hit hard by coronavirus

El Paso, Texas (CNN) The glowing lights of arcade machines flash on and off across a silent room. A small carousel stands idly by, its colorful horses frozen in time.

Gone are the sounds of buzzers, ringers, and skee balls at Peter Piper Pizza. Instead, a man paces around with a loud machine, dousing the room with disinfectant spray.

“It’s downright sad,” said John Hlamquist, president of Pizza Properties, which owns the restaurant and other locations in El Paso. “You’d come in here on a Saturday, this place would be full.”

The pews of Our Lady of the Light Church are largely empty during the recording of mass for Univision, allowing parishioners to watch from home.

Meanwhile, at a church across town, a trumpeter plays through a tiny hole in his surgical mask, while Bishop Mark Seitz walks down the aisle to hold mass before empty pews. This bishop is taping the service to air on Univision, so his parishioners don’t put themselves at risk.

These are some of the many scenes from El Paso, an area under lockdown amid a surging Covid-19 outbreak. Pockets of the county feel ghostly as the normally vibrant culture here returns to what so much of the country experienced this past spring: closed storefronts, overwhelmed hospitals and mobile morgues

Places like tattoo parlors, hair salons, nail salons, gyms and massage businesses are shuttered. Restaurants can stay open only for curbside and delivery orders.

It was a frightening order for some small businesses that are still struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic-stricken economy. And it has larger businesses, like Peter Piper Pizza, concerned about its employees.

“If we don’t have hours to give them because we can’t serve customers, they don’t get paid. And I think that’s what kind of gets lost in all this,” said Hlamquist. “Our team members don’t have paychecks.”

Hlamquist’s company has teamed up with other businesses in a lawsuit seeking to block the judge’s order while they ask the courts to resolve whether state or local government has the authority to shut down businesses. The Texas Attorney General’s office has also joined the lawsuit.

Abbott — who has refused to grant county judges authority to initiate shutdowns — described Judge Samaniego’s order as illegal, arguing there are better strategies to mitigate the crisis.

As the fight continues in the courts, the virus rages on across the area. As of Wednesday, the county reported 29,118 active cases, meaning close to 1 in 30 people have recently tested positive.

Outside the medical examiner’s office are six mobile refrigerated units that can hold 176 bodies. More units are expected to arrive. Read from source….