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Coronavirus

El Paso continues to hit extreme new highs in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

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El Paso County for the first time has gone over 1,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in a week, with two days in the week remaining.

COVID-19 cases requiring hospital care and treatment in intensive care units also continue to rise. State health officials are reporting that only 28 ICU beds and 388 hospital beds are available in the region encompassing El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties. That’s the lowest number of available beds since the state began publishing such data in the spring.

El Paso public health officials reported 265 new cases on Thursday, bringing the weekly count to 1,059. That surpasses last week’s all-time high of 990 cases. 

El Paso is on pace for between 1,400 and 1,500 new COVID-19 cases this week. Until the surge that began last week, El Paso’s weekly high was 594 cases.

“The consistent jump in positive cases lately is alarming, and calls for everybody to once again devote themselves to strictly practice the recommended safety precautions to slow the spread in our community,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city-county health authority. “While the Fourth of July is fast approaching we want to remind the community that social gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited. Again, I ask you to limit going out, but if you must go out please practice social distancing, wear a face cover, frequently wash your hands with soap and water and if you’re feeling even mildly under the weather stay home.”

As with last week, just over half the new cases reported this week are among people in their 20s and 30s. That group comprises about 30 percent of El Paso County’s total population.

Health officials said that initial investigations indicate the surge in cases is due to community spread. They said clusters of cases at a nursing home and detention facility, which the city refuses to name, are contributing to the case growth.

Sheriff Richard Wiles has reported that 54 inmates and six employees at the county’s two jails had tested positive Saturday through Thursday. But he said all of those people were believed to have been infected in the community before being booked into the jail.

Wiles said 600 inmates are scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 on Thursday, with another 400 tested in coming days.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization and intensive care also reached new highs again on Thursday. 

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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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