El Paso is 9 weeks into COVID-19. Here’s where we stand
Cover illustration by Ana Gaby Becerra
Data in this story is the most recently available as of Wednesday, May 20.
Friday marks nine weeks since El Paso’s first reported COVID-19 case, and two weeks since Texas began efforts to reopen the economy.
Here’s where El Paso stands in its efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Number of new cases growing with expanded testing
As we’ve said for several weeks, the number of COVID-19 infections in El Paso has been underestimated because of extremely limited testing. Those testing numbers began to expand last week as Gov. Greg Abbott sent additional testing resources. Not surprisingly, 151 positive tests were reported on Thursday, almost twice the previous high.
El Paso’s testing rate is still far below the national average. El Paso officials estimated that 21,000 people had been tested as of Wednesday; the state puts the number at 16,434. That puts El Paso County’s testing rate at 2 to 2.5 percent of the population; the national rate is 3.8 percent, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project. El Paso officials say their goal is to test 5 percent of the population in coming weeks.
With that in mind, here is the number of reported new cases each week since the first case was reported March 13.
Even with expanded testing, the growth rate of new cases was about 4.4 percent a day on average last week, well below growth rates at the beginning of the outbreak.
El Paso health officials reported 13 new COVID-19 deaths between last Friday and Thursday, the highest weekly total so far.
What’s happening at El Paso’s hospitals
The number of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions due to COVID-19 in El Paso climbed in the first two weeks of April, when the Department of Public Health first began reporting such data. Many of these were likely infections contracted before the city and county “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders shut down much of the movement in El Paso.
The number of hospital and ICU admissions initially peaked on April 15, declined for a few days and then generally held steady until April 29, when they shot up again. The numbers have stayed stubbornly high since.
Where COVID-19 is hitting
COVID-19 is not spread evenly across El Paso and Doña Ana counties. Some areas have been harder hit than others. The high infection rate in the Chaparral, N.M., area is due to an outbreak at a private detention facility.
Hover your cursor over a ZIP code for more detail.
Reduction in mobility
Google has been releasing mobility data as a tool for public health officials to determine effectiveness of efforts to reduce social contacts. The dataset compares recent movements to different types of locations to movements in January and February. The latest report is from May 9.
El Paso’s mobility reduction has been generally similar to the United States and Texas, with the exception of parks, where our decline has been among the steepest in the country. El Paso was one of the few major cities to close parks completely in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Parks remain closed, except for hiking and biking trails.
The economic fallout
Workforce Solutions Borderplex reports that more than 56,000 people in the El Paso area have filed unemployment claims since mid-March. That’s one out of every six jobs that El Pasoans had in February.