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El Paso COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations have stabilized

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The number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in El Paso appear to have stabilized at levels just above what we saw in mid-June, before the summer explosion of new cases.

New cases this past week were down slightly this week from the prior week, though that data remains fuzzy because of continued delays by state health officials in reporting COVID-19 positive tests to local health officials across Texas. But we’ve now had two weeks of fewer than 1,000 new cases, which is encouraging.

The number of people with COVID-19 who required hospitalization or intensive care continue to be well off our peak levels, but we haven’t seen any real change in nine days.

Here’s the weekly COVID-19 update for El Paso County.

New COVID-19 cases

El Paso has had two weeks of around 800 new cases, which is well off the peak we saw from late June through mid-August. It’s still above the levels we saw in May and most of June, before the sharp summer rise in infections.

The numbers since late June come with a caution. State health officials continue to discover positive tests that were not reported to local health authorities across the state. El Paso officials have added about 1,300 previously unreported cases over the past three weeks. The numbers prior to the past week in the chart below are as of Aug. 26, the last day El Paso health officials updated their weekly data to correct for state reporting errors.

The weekly numbers do not include 133 previously unreported cases that the city has learned of since Aug. 26. Some of those cases are from this past week, city officials have said.

This coming weekend — Labor Day weekend — likely will play a major role in how the next two months play out in El Paso.

The last major holiday weekend — the Fourth of July — likely played a significant role in the eruption of COVID-19 cases we saw this summer. Large gatherings among family and friends provide ideal conditions for spreading the novel coronavirus.

Large gatherings over Labor Day weekend that lead to a second phase of sharp increases in COVID-19 infections would have major repercussions. It could threaten plans to re-open schools in mid-October, for example.

Hospitalizations and ICU cases

The number of El Pasoans hospitalized with COVID-19 was in a narrow range of 131 to 140 for the week. The sharp decline in hospitalizations we generally saw since the last week of July appears to have stalled, at least for now.

The number of cases requiring treatment in intensive care units also was largely unchanged throughout the past week.

New deaths reported

The number of reported COVID-19 deaths in El Paso surpassed 400 this week. You can expect that to continue to increase as health officials say they are investigating more than 100 other deaths as being caused by COVID-19.

These numbers show new deaths reported each week, not how many people are dying of COVID-19 each week. Public health officials often take days or weeks to classify a death as COVID-19 related. El Paso officials haven’t provided any data that would show deaths by the week they occurred.

Cover photo: Texas has had a statewide face-covering order in effect since July 2. (Claudia Tristán/El Paso Matters)

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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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