Border lacks testing to gauge true scope of COVID-19 contagion, Texas lawmaker says


El Paso Democrat urges families to practice preventive measures, not trust numbers reported so far

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Border residents shouldn’t let their guard down just because only a handful of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed so far, an El Paso congresswoman said Wednesday.

“I want to stress that we really don’t know what the numbers are,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “We don’t know because there are not enough tests. I don’t want folks to look at the numbers popping up on the news and say, ‘Oh, that’s all the cases that exist and we’re going to be okay.’ No, we don’t know how many cases there are, so that’s why precautions are really important.”

As of Wednesday morning, El Paso had recorded three COVID-19 cases and Juarez, Mexico, just across the border, one. Escobar called for more tests to be available to border residents, including those without health insurance. Medical experts joining Escobar during an online congressional district town hall on Wednesday morning said the city has around 800 test kits.

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Escobar said she doesn’t want people to panic, but most of all she doesn’t want the virus to spread.

“It’s really important that we understand the gravity and the severity of what we are facing,” she said. “We are facing a health crisis like none we have ever seen in this century, so it’s going to be very important that we adopt measures that will not only keep us safe but also those around safe.”

Recommendations previously made by health authorities include frequent hand-washing, avoiding large crowds, handshakes and coughing or sneezinig into one’s lower forearm.

“All it takes is being in contact with one person who looks healthy, who could be a carrier of coronavirus. We need to make sure to protect our families. Even the healthiest person should not be exposed to groups of greater than 50 persons,” she said. “That means that for the next two months we have to be very cautious. […] If you don’t need to be out and about, don’t. It’s better to be accused of being overly cautious than dealing possibly tragic consequences later.”

Some participants in the town hall expressed concern about shortages of cleaning supplies and toilet paper on the border. Escobar said those shortages are not exclusive of the area and are spreading. Public officials are talking to business leaders so stores stop people from hoarding.

She also urged businesses to let employees work from home and Senate members to approve two House-passed bills that would inject $8.3 billion into the economy. The money is meant for medical research, testing and treatment, small business stimuli, help for employees laid off as a result of COVID-19 related business slowdown, among others.

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