City and county leaders urged more El Pasoans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as cases climb and the threat of the latest variant of the disease looms.
Of the 251 positive cases reported from July 7 to July 14, 76% were among unvaccinated county residents. The age group impacted the most is between 18 to 30 years old, according to city data, which also notes that 68% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated and 79% of people 12 and older are partially vaccinated.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said during a press conference Monday that variants of Covid-19, including the fast-spreading delta variant, are being monitored.
City documents show there are four variants confirmed in El Paso, including the UK variant and a variant from Brazil, but the delta variant is so far undetected, Leeser said.
Leeser said random samples of positive cases are sent to a lab in Lubbock to test for variants and it takes about seven to 10 days for the results.
But El Paso Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said during a work session to City Council Monday that it is only a matter of time before the delta variant is confirmed in El Paso.
“Vaccination is the best tool that we have to prevent spreading variants in our community,” Ocaranza said.
Samaniego said the county is partnering with local organizations to identify people that have vaccine hesitancy in an effort to increase the vaccination rates.
“I’m hoping that collaboration between the mayor and myself and everyone else here in our community will keep us from going in the wrong direction,” Samaniego said.
Active COVID-19 cases in El Paso County are above 600 for the first time since mid-June.
El Paso’s first wave of infections began in June 2020 and continued through the summer. Infections slowed from August through September, then spiked in the fall with more than 13,500 cases the first week of November.
Ocaranza said that although there has been a rise in cases, he does not expect to see an outbreak of COVID-19 cases similar to last year because more people are now vaccinated.
There has been a small uptick in hospitalizations in recent weeks with 60 people hospitalized and 14 in the ICU, according to recent data. But COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to remain below the more than 300 patients hospitalized in March of this year, including more than 120 who required treatment in intensive care.
City and county leaders have said fully reopening more facilities such as senior centers and county buildings and services would depend on the entire community being 75% fully vaccinated, although there has not been a date associated for when that may occur.
Cover photo: Mayor Oscar Leeser, left, and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego discussed El Paso’s current COVID-19 situation at a City Hall news conference on Monday. (Elida S. Perez/El Paso Matters)