UPDATE: El Paso officials warn against Labor Day weekend gatherings to combat COVID-19

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — During an update on Thursday about the COVID-19 response happening in El Paso County, officials said that after every holiday, El Paso has had a spike in coronavirus cases.

That’s why Mayor Dee Margo and other city and county leaders are discouraging people from gathering during the upcoming Labor Day weekend. 

“Right now our numbers are down. The problem we have is, our numbers are down in the hospitalizations, they’re down in the ICUs and they’re down on the ventilators — everything is a positive trend,” Margo said. “However, every time we have had a holiday — Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July —  we have had spikes in positives, because of the lack of discipline with family gatherings. 

Early Thursday morning, health officials announced eight new COVID-19 related deaths in El Paso County. However, new cases of COVID-19 have dropped over the past few weeks.

“It is imperative that people stay home if you don’t need to go out, please avoid going to Mexico unless you really have to,” he said.

Margo also encouraged residents to get tested, mentioning that the state testing sites will be open on Labor Day. The City said that the three State testing sites have extended their operations through Sept. 15. Two State sites are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Nations Tobin Recreation Center; 8831 Railroad Dr.
  • El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus, 919 Hunter Dr.

The State testing site located at Socorro Independent School District’s Student Activities Complex, 1300 Joe Battle Blvd., will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and closed Saturday.

No appointments are needed for the State sites, and testing is free and available to members of the community with or without COVID-19 symptoms.

The city’s two testing sites, at 301 George Perry Blvd. on the Eastside and 7400 High Ridge Dr. on the Westside, will be closed on Labor Day.

Because of the COVID pandemic, Margo also encouraged El Pasoans to get a flu shot this season. 

El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego urged residents to not drop their guard despite numbers starting to decrease. “We still have to be cautious, make sure you do the right things,” he said.

It’s important to teach children about wearing masks and social distancing rules in preparation for going back to school in person, adding that teachers already have a tough job without the need to teach children how to socially distance and wear masks.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, of the El Paso Health Authority, spoke about the City’s new Power Dashboard on the epstrong.org website, encouraging El Pasoans to use it to get comprehensive and interactive COVID-19 information.

“We can look at the cases according to the ZIP code, we can have the information according to the gender, the race, and we can have information at your fingertips in regards to the whole county if we want to,” he said.

The dashboard includes a scorecard, a color-coded system that alerts residents of the severity of infections, as well as shows how well controlled the virus is in the community.

Ocaranza also spoke about how the city’s infection rate has decreased. The number of new cases peaked at 41 new cases per every 100,000 people. The infection rate is now at about 10.3 cases per 100,000 people, he said.

“One thing that is remarkable is that about 14 days after the mandate of everybody wearing the mask, we saw that the number of cases peaked and started dropping,” Ocaranza explained, adding that if more people wear masks, that will help to lower the spread of infection.

He said that wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands, coupled with flu shots, will help reduce the severity of a flu season in the pandemic.

“If we keep conditions very well under control, we will be able to fight those respiratory infections in a better way,” Ocaranza said.

Earlier:

The City of El Paso and local health leaders will provide an update on the COVID-19 response happening in El Paso County.

The news conference will be held virtually on Thursday, September 3 at 3 p.m.

You can watch the meeting in the video below:

Early Thursday morning, health officials announced 8 new COVID-19 related deaths in El Paso County. However, new cases of COVID-19 have dropped over the past few weeks.

According to epstrong.org, the number of active cases in El Paso currently remains at 2,822.

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