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El Paso’s COVID-19 weekly data report: Eruption of cases in young adults drives unprecedented surge

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El Paso County reached new highs for weekly COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations last week, creating a deepening public health crisis. Here’s our weekly look at El Paso’s data.

Young adults

People in their 20s and 30s made up just over half of the record-shattering 990 new COVID-19 cases reported in El Paso last week. 

The explosion of young adult cases is being seen across the state, which led to Gov. Greg Abbott to order all Texas bars to close again on Friday. The intimate and social nature of bars creates ideal conditions for COVID-19 spread.

El Paso County had 990 new reported COVID-19 cases the week of June 21-27. That included 301 new cases among people in their 20s and 201 among people in their 30s, meaning the two groups accounted for 50.7 percent of all new cases. People in their 20s and 30s comprise  30 percent of the El Paso County population, according to the Census Bureau, and had accounted for about 39 percent of all El Paso COVID-19 cases through June 20.

The new reported cases were 22 percent higher than the previous daily record set two days earlier and 44 percent above the earlier single-day peak on June 4.

The record for new weekly cases appears likely to be shattered again this week. El Paso has reported 794 new cases from Sunday through Wednesday, with 51 percent of the new cases among people in their 20s and 30s.

New weekly cases

The 990 new reported cases was 67 percent more than El Paso County had experienced in any prior week.

While the focus is on cases among young adults, it’s important to remember that the  488 cases among El Pasoans not in their 20s and 30s also represents a new weekly high for that category. Put another way, the illness is spreading fastest among young adults, but it’s growing among virtually all age groups in El Paso.

El Paso public health officials said on Friday that the large number of newly reported cases included three “clusters”: in a detention facility, a health-care facility and a senior-care facility. However, the officials provided no real information on those clusters. The city refuses to identify individual facilities with clusters of COVID-19 cases, and provided no numbers of new cases in the three reported clusters.

El Paso public health officials updated their cluster report for the first time in two weeks on Friday night. Because they didn’t update the numbers the prior week, it’s impossible to know how many of the 990 new cases this week occurred in the three broadly identified clusters.

Over the past two weeks, for which the city has provided cluster data, new COVID-19 cases included 102 staff and 46 residents at senior care facilities; 47 health-care staff and one patient at health-care facilities; and 23 staff and 25 residents at detention facilities. 

Those three cluster areas account for about 16 percent of new reported COVID-19 cases in El Paso County over the past two weeks.

Hospitalizations and deaths

El Paso hit a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday with 177, 49 percent higher than the peak reached on May 22. The number of people requiring intensive care treatment has surpassed peak numbers reported in late May.

The surge of new cases likely will push hospitalization numbers much higher in coming days. Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services indicated that the three-county region of Far West Texas that includes El Paso had 38 available intensive care unit beds as of Tuesday, and 458 available hospital beds.

The one bid of good news for El Paso is that only seven new COVID-19 deaths were reported last week, the lowest number in more than two months.

Deaths and hospitalizations are lagging indicators of COVID-19 impact because it generally takes time for people to get so sick that they require hospitalization or succumb to the disease. The lethality of the current spike in cases likely won’t be known for several weeks.

Infection rates by ZIP codes

COVID-19 isn’t spread evenly throughout our region. When looking at Doña Ana and El Paso counties, the ZIP code with the highest infection rate (88024 in the small town of Berino, N.M.) has 17 times the per capita rate as the ZIP code with the lowest infection rate (88007 north of Las Cruces.)

In El Paso County, the highest infection rates are in Central El Paso’s 79903 and Canutillo’s 79835, where per-capita infections are more than three times higher than in 79911 and 79922 in West El Paso.

Four ZIP codes in Doña Ana and El Paso counties have had more than 1 percent of their population test positive for COVID-19 — the ZIP codes in Berino, Canutillo and Central El Paso already mentioned, as well as 87937 in Hatch, N.M.

Hover your cursor over a ZIP code for more details.

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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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