WARNING: Graphic content
Grim pictures show the reality of Covid-19's unrelenting grip on hte US's heartland where morgues are literally overflowing.
Piled into the back of freezer trucks in El Paso, Texas, are bodies that will not fit in morgues after what local mayor Dee Margo called "a rapid increase in (coronavirus) cases and hospitalisations (and) a spike in deaths".
So dire is the crisis in the far-west Texas city, population 682,000, the Texas National Guard has been deployed and inmates from nearby prisons have been tasked with moving bodies to mobile morgues.
El Paso's Office of the Medical Examiner is also desperate for workers to help fill temporary job postings including morgue attendants, who will be paid hazard pay for working so close to bodies with Covid-19.
On social media, where pictures of the bodies piled inside trucks and awaiting processing are being shared, Mayor Margo wrote: "We have been working closely with funeral homes and mortuaries to assist with increased capacity and co-ordination of resources.
"The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support."
El Paso's official Covid-19 dashboard records a total of 855 deaths and 81,179 infections, of which 843 are new.
As the death toll grows and more deaths are expected from a large number of hospitalisations, the focus has turned to the use of prisoners to assist – inmates who are being paid as little as US$2 an hour, according to The Guardian.
"Having to use inmates tells the story of how shorthanded we must be," El Paso county judge Ricardo Samaniego told media last week.
"It was just a temporary focus, and we're waiting for the Texas national guard to help us out with that."
Lawanna Rivers, a nurse who arrived in Texas to help, shared an emotional video on Facebook where she described the morbid scenes.
"The only way that those patients was coming out of that pit was in a body bag," she said of the unit where she was working.
"This hospital's policy was they only get three rounds of CPR, which was only six minutes, this out of all the codes we had – there is not a single patient that made it," she said.
Judge Samaniego last week sent a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott appealing for a curfew to be instated in the hope that it might curb the current trend of infections and deaths. The city previously had a curfew.
"I think it was very effective for a lot of the young adults that were going to the desert or young adults that would hang out in different situations and also the ones crossing to Mexico and coming from Mexico after 10 o'clock," he told news station KVIA.
The pandemic has well and truly taken hold as colder weather sets in around the US. On Saturday, the country passed the grim milestone of 12 million coronavirus cases — which is more than a million up on the week before.
Johns Hopkins University data shows that more than 12 million cases have been confirmed and more than 255,000 Americans have died.
CNN reports that almost every US state has reported a rapid surge in cases and the single highest daily increase in new infections was reached on Friday when there were more than 195,500 new cases recorded.
Among them is Trump's own son, Donald Trump Jr, who is "doing very well" in quarantine, the President said.
The 42-year-old tested positive last week and had been showing no symptoms.
President-elect Joe Biden has called out Trump over his handling of the pandemic and promised to bring case numbers down when he is sworn in.