El Paso officials urge residents to fight COVID-19 community spread

Times staff report
Published 11:53 a.m. MT Oct. 11, 2020 | Updated 12:16 p.m. MT Oct. 11, 2020

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Erika Morales talks about her late husband, Daniel Morales, Friday, Aug. 21, at her in-laws’ home in El Paso.

El Paso Times

El Paso health leaders are urging the community to take more responsibility in fighting the deadly toll from the coronavirus.

If residents refuse, they could face clampdowns, including court-ordered restrictions, officials warned.

“As we continue to experience community spread and COVID fatigue, the number of positive cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise by record numbers unless each and every one of us take full responsibility for our actions and promote change as we have been appealing, mandating and begging,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city-county health authority, said in a news release.

 “Do not just do it for yourselves but for the health and wellness of your family, friends and our community. If we work together we can accomplish so much more!”

El Paso County has been seeing hundreds of new positive coronavirus cases each day as the death toll from the virus continues to climb.

Community spread is driving the increase in cases, officials have said.

The city of El Paso Department of Public Health on Saturday reported 546 new COVID-19 cases, the largest spike the community has seen to date. 

On Sunday, 541 new cases were reported. Four more deaths were reported over the weekend, raising the death toll to 549.

The two people whose deaths were reported Saturday were a man in his 50s and a woman in her 60s. The victims reported Sunday were a woman and a man in their 70s. All had underlying conditions.

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Officials warn that infected people with few or no symptoms can spread the virus to others with deadly effect.

“Everyone must hold himself or herself accountable and work to protect each other,” officials said in the news release.

As of Sunday, 28,499 positive cases have been reported in El Paso County; 5,892 of those cases were active.

Data at epstrong.org show 21,929 people have recovered.

As of Sunday, 259 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 79 in intensive care and 30 on ventilators. County data showed 18% of current hospitalizations as of Sunday were due to COVID-19.

Health officials said the increase in community spread is due in part to:

• Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 who are not following proper health protocol and are not isolating.

• Residents who are continuing to host or attend house parties, social gatherings or family gatherings.

• Residents who are not wearing face masks in public or around people who do not live in the same household.

• Individuals who have tested positive who are not cooperating with contact tracers by not answering their phone calls, not providing accurate information and not adhering to their recommendations.

Officials said the epidemiology team is conducting investigations, including contact tracing, to determine individuals’ conditions and immediate needs, to provide isolation orders and guidance, and to identify those potentially exposed contacts and determine the need for quarantine and testing.

Contact tracing helps determine the possible spread of infection and implement measures to stop it, officials said. The investigation can lead to identifying clusters of people who might have been infected from the same location.

“The faster the infected individuals are identified and isolated, the better chance we have to reduce and control the spread,” Public Health Director Angela Mora said in the news release. “However, we need the public’s cooperation, heed our warnings and help reduce the risk of infection that might lead to more deaths and families left without a loved one. Non-adherence to isolation and quarantine orders will lead to drastic measures such as issuance of court-ordered restrictions to limit an individual’s movement.”

Of particular concern to officials is the increase in positive cases among people in their 20s and 30s.

Officials said the data suggest that infected people in those two age groups appear to have contracted the virus while out in public and not taking proper safety precautions, which include practicing social distancing, frequent hand-washing with soap and water and wearing a face covering.

For more information, visit epstrong.org.

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