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The pandemic’s effect on El Paso: Deaths skyrocket, births decline


The impact of COVID-19’s first 8½ months is evident in two basic numbers: deaths and births among El Paso County residents in 2020.

El Paso County had never had a year in which more than 6,000 residents died. But in 2020, the pandemic’s toll pushed the number of deaths to almost 8,400, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The number of deaths in 2020, which are considered provisional and subject to change, suggest that the number of COVID-19 deaths in El Paso may have been undercounted. Research has indicated that COVID deaths in the United States were likely undercounted in 2020, particularly among people of color.

El Paso health officials reported just under 1,500 COVID-19 deaths at the end of 2020. The county’s total number of deaths from all causes reported to the state increased by more than 2,600 from 2019 to 2020, after increasing by 114 to 212 annually over the three previous years.

The number of children born to El Paso County residents declined by 5% in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the state data. That’s in line with the nationwide birth decline during the pandemic.

El Paso County births peaked at 14,540 in 2005 and have been declining almost every year since then.

The 5% decrease in births between 2019 and 2020 was higher than most other years over the past 15 years, although births declined by 8% between 2016 and 2017.

The El Paso County Clerk’s Office, which records birth certificates, reports that births in El Paso County during the first nine months of 2021 were down 9% from the same period in 2020.

Cover photo: Brenda Gurrola Diaz, left, speaks with Sonia Lopez Espinal, director of nursing for Women’s Services at The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus, as she waits for discharge on Jan. 27. Due to the pandemic, Gurrola Diaz did not have visitors during her delivery and subsequent hospital stay. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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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