EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) — A record-high 35,963 El Pasoans were actively infected with COVID-19 as of Sunday in the Borderland.
1,039 of those infected, are currently hospitalized due to the virus, 308 of them in the ICU. The city of El Paso announced two more deaths on Sunday, with 479 deaths currently under investigation, an increase of 21 since Saturday.
One of the patients currently in the overflowing hospitals will look familiar to students at Jefferson High School. Silver Foxes’ girls basketball coach Noel Castaneda has been hospitalized since Tuesday.
His condition has improved since then, but it has not been an easy road. Castaneda says it wasn’t until he arrived at Jefferson for the Silver Foxes’ season opener on Tuesday that COVID-19 hit him hard.
“I couldn’t walk from the parking lot to inside our gym,” Castaneda said. “(To that point) I basically had no symptoms. The only thing was the weakness in my body.”
He consulted with the training staff and immediately went to the hospital, where he’s been ever since. It’s been touch-and-go at times, but Castaneda was feeling much better on Sunday. He told KTSM he was no longer using an oxygen mask.
“One think you have to have is faith, faith in the process, faith in yourself, and faith in your doctors and nurses,” Castaneda said.
Castaneda has been at La Jeff for over a decade, where he teaches math in addition to coaching basketball. He’s a beloved figure.
“Jefferson and the kids here, this is his baby,” La Jeff football coach Tony Martinez said. “He’s always around and helping any way he can.”
The Silver Foxes have stepped up for the man they call “Coach K” in his time of need.
“I feel very strong. You can feel it, and I can feel that prayer that’s coming in with their prayers,” Castaneda said. “I want to be out there on the court, but I know things are going to be a little bit different.”
With the COVID crisis in El Paso reaching new heights seemingly every day, and Thanksgiving on Thursday, Coach K has a message for his fellow El Pasoans who might be considering gathering with friends and family this week.
“Keep your guard up, really keep your guard up. I have no idea how I got this, I really don’t. But, I do know that I let my guard down somewhere and it got to me,” Castaneda said. “I teach from home, I go to practice at school, my girls are on one side of the gym and I’m on the other, and then I get this, I have no idea how I got this. Keep your eyes vigilant and do the necessary things you have to do.”
Castaneda said his Jefferson team this season is full of fighters, and he’s embodying that fighting spirit. His doctors and nurses are pleased with his progress; there’s hope he could be home by next weekend.