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Las Palmas physician tests positive for COVID-19; El Paso firefighter also believed to be infected

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A doctor who practices at West El Paso’s Las Palmas Medical Center has tested positive for COVID-19, hospital officials said Monday. The physician is believed to be the first El Paso health-care provider to test positive for the disease caused by coronavirus.

Also, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said a firefighter was “presumptive positive” for COVID-19. It’s believed to be the initial first responder diagnosed with the illness.

The physician wasn’t identified. Las Palmas Medical Center issued the following statement from Dr. Oscar Vega, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“Upon learning of this physician’s diagnosis, we immediately notified public health authorities and consulted with epidemiology and infection prevention experts. In coordination with the El Paso Department of Public Health, we have been tracing the potential exposure to patients, physicians and staff, based on the timeline of this incident, and in consultation with these experts, we have been assessing risk to each person potentially exposed based on their unique circumstances.

“We are in the process of contacting all patients and providers who may require further observation and/or testing based on our risk assessment.

“Unfortunately, exposure to health-care workers is becoming more commonplace at hospitals across the country. We are doing all we can to protect our patients and our health-care providers on the front lines of this pandemic.

“This exposure was not the result of a breach of protocol in our hospitals, and we will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s best practices for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.”

Gonzalez told City Council at a special meeting Monday that a firefighter was “presumptive positive” for COVID-19 but wasn’t showing symptoms. He said he had been isolated after returning from travel earlier this month.

He said 30 to 40 other firefighters who worked with the affected firefighter are being quarantined and monitored.

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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