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People in El Paso load bodies wrapped in plastic into a refrigerated temporary morgue trailer on Nov. 16. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Members of the Texas National Guard have been deployed to El Paso County to support the region's morgue operations, as the county undergoes a "spike in deaths" related to COVID-19, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced.

The backdrop: Texas became the first state to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases earlier this month.

  • The team of 36 National Guard troops was mobilized Saturday morning. It will "provide mortuary affairs support," a spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management told CNN.

What they're saying: "As we've seen a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, we are unfortunately also seeing a spike in deaths," Margo said.

  • "We have been working closely with funeral homes and mortuaries to assist with increased capacity and coordination 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."

The big picture: Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have accelerated across the country heading into the holidays. The number of hospitalizations reached a new peak of 83,227 on Saturday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Go deeper: Why we're numb to 250,000 coronavirus deaths

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago PrudĂȘncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.