EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Both El Paso and Juarez reported a record number of new coronavirus infections on Friday, plus 18 new fatalities.
The spikes coincide with the recently expanded reopening in both cities, although officials in Juarez emphasized their record increase had more to do with different recordkeeping.
One new death and a shocking 233 new cases were announced by El Paso health officials on Friday. The increase is the most in El Paso since the pandemic began. The latest fatal case was a man in his 50s with underlying medical conditions.
“We continue to be saddened by the ongoing loss of lives, and send our deepest condolences to this gentleman’s family,” said City-County Local Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza. “We are also alarmed by the spike in new cases seen over the last several days. We are still investigating these spikes to get a more comprehensive understanding of the source of exposure.”
He said initial reports indicate there are at least three clusters in the latest spike. El Paso has now reported 5,217 COVID-18 cases and 126 deaths.
Juarez this morning reports 17 new deaths and 428 new cases. The number of confirmed infections jumped 20% in a single day, from 2,135 to 2,568. The city across the Rio Grande from El Paso has now seen 478 coronavirus-related fatalities.
Juarez last Monday began its economic reopening, allowing most businesses to operate at 50% capacity after being closed for three months.
However, officials said the stunning one-day increase has to do with a new method of recordkeeping. “We are now adding (local) numbers and (federal numbers), something we could not do before,” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua State Health Department in Juarez.
That means many cases confirmed many days ago are barely being reported, according to his explanation.
In a Friday teleconference, Valenzuela said he was aware of steps Texas is taking to slow the increase of coronavirus contagion. However, he said Mexico isn’t planning to further restrict the entry of U.S. residents.
According to an often-quoted survey from the El Paso Community Foundation and other partners, most people in the El Paso-Juarez area have family members in both cities and visiting those relatives is the number one reason for them crossing the border.
Right now, the U.S. government is restricting non-essential international travel and only allowing American citizens and legal permanent residents to cross. Mexico also requires an essential reason for people to come into the country, but federal officials only check vehicles or pedestrians who draw a random “red light” at a machine in its checkpoints.
Chihuahua state authorities are manning health-screening checkpoints just south of border crossings in Texas cities.
Also on Friday, a Chihuahua City newspaper reported that a 1-year-old died of COVID-19, but state officials declined to elaborate.