Big box stores top source of COVID-19 spread in El Paso, officials say

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — With repeated high numbers of new coronavirus cases being reported in the Sun City, El Paso city leaders said they’re doing as much as they can to work with one of the top reported sources of the spread: big box stores.

Despite a recent mishap of more 3,000 cases being reported on Wednesday, city leaders are still raising awareness of where the virus is mostly infecting the community and sharing how it’s being handled.

“Shopping in El Paso, given our culture and our nature, is a family event. We have stressed and said please. Don’t take your family to go shopping if you can do it with one person,” Mayor Dee Margo said during a news conference on Thursday.

Margo said contact tracing data has been continuing to show big box stores as the leading source of where the virus has been infecting community members. “The main retailers — the Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes — and all those fall under federal guidelines. As determined by Homeland Security, we have no legal oversight control over any limitations to those stores.”

Although the city cannot overstep these company’s current measures, Margo shared that the request to take more action has already been made. “So what we have done is my office has reached out to corporate at Walmart, Target and all of the major big box retailers, and ask that they take proactive action to try and limit the occupancies in their various stores. So far as what I recall, the feedback has been positive.”

Some big retailers in El Paso have already chosen to temporarily shut their doors to the public in efforts of further sanitizing the stores to keep shoppers and the community safe.

“They do notify us to let us know if they are closing the stores, so they are rotating. They’re closing them one at a time. They close on a day and then they open at 6 a.m. two days later. So again, the closings have no public health orders or implications up to now,” said Angela Mora, director of the El Paso Department of Public Health.

The Mayor added that family gatherings are also a big reason for the ongoing spread in El Paso, and said it’s very similar to what was happening during the high spread of COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. Margo said that it’s imperative for El Pasoans to stop having mass gatherings.

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