El Paso will see more COVID-19 challenges in coming weeks, doctor says

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An El Paso infectious disease expert COVID-19 is potentially going to get worse in the region in the next weeks.

On Monday, the El Paso Public Health Department confirmed the initial 12 cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in El Paso. Those shipments were from December and one expert says that number is much higher now.

“I think it’s pretty obvious to everybody that we up against another surge, unfortunately. The numbers don’t yet play it out but I have every expectation that over the coming weeks we’re going to see this get potentially worse,” said Dr. Ogechika Alozie, infectious disease expert and CEO of Sunset ID Care.

Alozie adds that there’s a conversation about whether the surge in new cases is Delta or Omicron.

“If you look at the city’s numbers that were released yesterday we were at 4 percent the week of Christmas. Understanding that omicron doubles every two to three days were probably at the 36 to 62 percent range of all of the cases in the city being Omicron,” said Dr. Alozie.

El Paso sees the effects of long lines at testing sites, urgent cares, and emergency rooms.

“I think what’s important is everybody knows a friend to 10 that are telling them they’re sick. Or their friend’s kids so we are seeing the anecdotal rate of cases be higher than anything we have seen since the beginning of this pandemic,” said Alozie.

Alozie says the hope is that while cases go up hospitalizations in our community lag.

“If we get something different from the rest of the country where cases go up and our hospitalizations follow it, we’re going to be pressed and it’s going to be problematic,” said Alozie.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino said almost 70 fire personal are out because of COVID and the company LTS that does the testing at El Paso’s mega-sites has 20 percent of staff out due to COVID-19.

“LTS is continuously staffing and re-staffing and bringing more people on board, I believe they’re bringing a large group of additional people that will be trained and ready to go by Saturday so that will help but it’s just a matter if we can control the COVID from spreading and they can keep their employees healthy and continuing to work,” said El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino during Tuesday’s City Council Meeting.

Meanwhile, at-home COVID rapid tests are in short supply and hard to find in El Paso.

El Pasoan Alan Badillo got tested at a city site on the Westside on Tuesday telling KTSM 9 News he couldn’t find an at-home test.

“I went to Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens and they all told me they were out of stock and back-ordered,” said Badillo. “I waited in line for about 4 or 5 hours and this was my only option.”

The Fire Chief says right now El Paso has a good supply of tests for the testing sites, but not at-home rapid tests.

“Right now we’re currently stocked we do have a well amount of supplies for our PCR testing. As far as the availability of rapid at-home personal use testing, that’s the difficulty. But that’s a supply chain issue at the federal level so when they put a restraint on it put’s the restraint on the state so the state no longer has supplies of that nature to supply to the municipalities,” said D’Agostino.

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