COVID-19 cases nearly double in El Paso County

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21 now diagnosed with coronavirus, up from 12 on Tuesday

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Nine new COVID-19 cases were reported in El Paso County on Wednesday, promting officials to emphasize the importance that the public obey stay-at-home orders issued a day earlier.

El Paso County now has 21 cases and Fort Bliss has four more, which are being counted separately. Fourteen cases involve residents ages 20 to 59, five are over 60 and two are teenagers, according to the Health Department.

“What we know is that the majority of those new cases are people in middle age, between 30 and 50 years of age. We receiving reports from outside labs and still doing our investigation to provide more information in regard to these cases,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, Health Department Authority.

Assistant El Paso Fire Chief Jorge Rodriguez, who is also the County’s emergency coordinator, speaks at a COVID-19 news conference on Wednesday. (photo courtesy City of El Paso website

He did not account for the sudden spike in positive coronavirus tests. As of Monday, 100 El Pasoans had been tested.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jorge Rodriguez said more testing will be going on. First responders and health care workers will be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site. Aside from them, only members of the general public that meet screening requirements and have a doctor’s order will be admitted there, he said.

In view of the spike, Ocaranza said it’s very important for residents to obey the “stay home, work safe” order issued on Tuesday.

“We need to rely on the community. Please follow the order. We have to use common sense,” he said. “We will be telling people if some of their business type isn’t essential and needs to close. But we have confidence that our community will respond and follow the instructions we’ve given them.”

Border Report on Wednesday morning witnessed numerous auto parts stores, independent insurance and loan offices and bakeries still operating in the city’s Upper Valley area.

Rodriguez said the City and County have the means to address compliance issues on the part of non-essential businesses that remain open and people who continue to go out and about. There’s also a number to call, 3-1-1, to report those who are out of compliance with “Stay home, work safe.”

“Like we stated, we’re trying to educate the public regarding what is considered essential,” Rodriguez said. “We are working with the community that they do their best to comply. If there’s compliance issues we have means to address those.”

Both officials said officers at this time will not be requiring residents to show a document that states that what they’re doing outside their homes is essential.

“There is no specific documentation to be outside, but we are trusting you to do your civic duties and stick to the order,” Ocaranza said.

He added that none of the initial COVID-19 victims are critical. In fact, most are recouperating in their homes.

Those patients who required going to the hospital are being observed to determine if the Health Deparment needs to make changes to its community prevention approach, he added.

If people in El Paso County have questions about the order or how to avoid COVID-19, they can visit epstrong.org or call the 915-212-6843 hotline.

Across the border in Juarez, Mexico, meantime, government officials were dealing with massive non-compliance to a similar “stay home” order.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela Zorrilla, medical director of the Chihuahua State Health Department, updates reporters on the COVID-19 situation in Mexico as of Wednesday. (photo courtesy Chihuahua state government)

Police using loudspeakers drove through Downtown Juarez on Wednesday informing passers-by about the order. One Chihuahua state official told reporters that people who infect others with a disease, including COVID-19, could face criminal charges.​

However, as of Wednesday morning, Juarez had not reported any new cases, Dr. Arturo Valenzuela Zorrilla said in a news release. Juarez remained wtih four confirmed cases, Chihuahua City had two and eight people in various parts of the state remained under observation, he said.​

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