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Commentary Coronavirus Featured

El Paso continues to see encouraging trends with COVID-19

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El Paso’s COVID-19 trends this past week were the most encouraging our community has seen since this summer. The most important metrics — new cases, hospitalizations and deaths — all showed declines.

The key now is to avoid the complacency and COVID fatigue that set in just as El Paso seemed to have the pandemic under some control in late August. The numbers we saw last week were down significantly from recent peaks, but they’re still far higher than what they were in late summer, before our devastating fall outbreak.

We still face risks heading into winter. But if El Pasoans can continue to show the diligence we’ve demonstrated over the past month, we can avoid a third wave in the winter and keep community spread low as more and more people get vaccinated in the spring.

Here’s our weekly COVID-19 data report.

New cases

The number of new reported COVID-19 infections in El Paso fell for the fifth straight week, though the rate of decline is slowing.

The continuing decline is especially heartening because it suggests that El Pasoans heeded health-care advice and largely avoided multi-household gatherings over Thanksgiving. We have not yet seen a post-holiday surge in cases, as was the case earlier in the pandemic.

But it’s important to note that the number of infections reported the past week is still higher than the number of cases we saw during our first wave of infections in the summer.

We also have Christmas and New Year’s coming up, two holidays that traditionally bring large gatherings. We have to continue the success we apparently saw over Thanksgiving to ensure the downward trend in recent weeks continues into the beginning of 2021.

Hospitalizations

The number of people with COVID-19 requiring hospital and intensive care unit treatment is continuing to decline, easing the pressure on a previously overwhelmed health-care infrastructure.

The number of people in ICU is declining at a slower rate than the hospitalization trend. That’s a reminder of how challenging it is to treat COVID-19 for the sickest patients. Such people often are in ICU for extended periods.

Deaths

The number of people dying of COVID-19 is coming down, but is still frighteningly high. El Paso averaged about one COVID-19 death every 72 minutes in the past week.

We should continue to see a decline in deaths between now and the end of the year, based on the drop in new infections we saw beginning in mid-November.

So far, El Paso has had 1,763 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, with more than 940 of those coming in the past six weeks.

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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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