This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.
U.S. Senate Confirms Esparza’s Nomination: Former El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza is on his way to becoming the next U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas as the Senate confirmed his nomination this week. President Joe Biden nominated Esparza on Oct. 14. Esparza was recommended by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas oversees federal cases in Austin, San Antonio, Pecos, Odessa, El Paso and all of West Texas. Esparza will oversee the federal prosecution of the man charged with killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019.
Graduation Time: Both the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College will have fall semester graduations this weekend. EPCC will honor 1,439 graduates during two ceremonies. Those receiving associate degrees in the sciences will have a ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday and those receiving associates in the arts will graduate at 6 p.m. Friday. Both ceremonies are at the Don Haskins Center. UTEP will have ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday at the Don Haskins Center. Health sciences students will graduate at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by engineering at 6 p.m. On Sunday, liberal arts students will graduate at 1 p.m. with business and education students at 6 p.m.
Respiratory Illnesses Rise: Pediatric beds in El Paso are full as respiratory illnesses continue to increase, city-county health authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said at a City Council meeting on Monday. Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, began surging earlier this year. While the virus usually causes cold symptoms, it can cause severe illness in vulnerable children and infants. There is no vaccine for RSV. The pediatric population has also been affected by flu, Ocaranza said. Doctors recommend getting the flu vaccine, which appears to be effective against the strains circulating this season. In addition to RSV and flu, El Paso is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. A Dec. 5 report showed El Paso had more than 6,300 active COVID cases compared to just more than 2,000 cases a few weeks prior. There are currently 135 people hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to less than 30 about a month ago. It is possible to get more than one respiratory illness at the same time. People can get the updated COVID booster at their local pharmacy or one of the city’s community clinics.