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Home | Tag Archives: covid19

Tag Archives: covid19

Video: COVID-19 survivor heads home after 63 days of hospitalization, rehab

68-year-old Roberto Mata finally headed home to his loving family after 63 total days in the hospital and inpatient rehabilitation after beating COVID-19.

Mata was released from The Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus on May 27 after spending 47 days in the hospital after a long battle with COVID-19.

The last 16 days he has spent at The Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, working closely with a comprehensive team of therapists to regain his strength and mobility.

Friday, Mata was recognized by his team of therapists and healthcare providers with a CODE Celebrate, commemorating his graduation from inpatient rehabilitation.

As part of the celebration, therapists joined and sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.”

Mata heads home to his loving wife of 49 years and his family and looks forward to spending time with them and catching up on the many things he loves.

United Way asks families across Texas to complete survey to assess economic impact of COVID-19

Austin – United Ways across Texas and the state organization, United Ways of Texas, are launching a statewide survey today to assess the economic impact the COVID19 crisis has had on Texas families.

“Every Texas family has felt the impact of COVID19 and even though much of our state has re-opened, life remains uncertain,” said Adrianna Cuellar Rojas, United Ways of Texas President and CEO. “This survey represents an opportunity to better understand the impact that COVID19 has had on Texans, to help inform state and community leaders in how best to support Texans in need.”

Before the pandemic hit, more than one in four Texas households were already struggling, led by workers that were unable to earn enough to cover the basics or to save for an unexpected life crisis or loss of a job.

“On a daily basis, United Ways across our state are focused on helping Texans thrive. With COVID19, the needs of Texas families, many who were already struggling prior to the pandemic, have been amplified, with disruptions in workforce, childcare, school and overall life,” said Cuellar Rojas. “The information gathered from this survey will help inform United Ways and others as we work to respond to both the immediate needs of Texans, and as we look forward to the next phase of recovery and what will be needed most to help get families back on track.”

For many Texans, the economic crisis has stripped away family assets and abruptly repositioned families into unfamiliar financial positions.

“H-E-B is committed, now more than ever, to supporting Texans. As a long-time, proud partner and supporter of communities, H-E-B recognizes the importance of seeking out a deeper understanding of the challenges ahead for Texas families across our state. H-E-B and United Way proudly support and encourage Texans Helping Texans,” said Bea Lopez, H-E-B Unit Director and United Ways of Texas Board Chair.

The survey seeks information on a wide range of topics, including the most pressing concerns, job changes, childcare challenges and economic changes that Texas families are navigating.

“If you’ve felt the economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, please take the time to complete the 10-minute survey,” Cuellar Rojas said. “United Way wants to listen and learn so we can know how best to help those Texans who have been hardest hit by COVID-19.”

All Texas families are invited to complete the United Way Texas COVID19 survey via this link. The survey will remain open through June 24. Individual responses are confidential.

El Paso-area Coronavirus Archive Stories from May 1st thru May 15th

This archive page of our El Paso-area Coronavirus Information has releases and information from May 1st through May 15th.

For the most recent health developments on COVID-19, please visit our up-to-the-minute page; for official info, click below.

Center for Disease Control (CDC)   |   World Health Organization    |    City of El Paso Department of Public Health

***ARCHIVE CONTENT FOLLOWS***

***(5/15/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting two (2) additional COVID-19 deaths for a total number of 45. Both patients with underlying health conditions are females in their 70s.

El Paso is also reporting 48 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,655. To-date 819 people have recovered from COVID-19; meaning there are 791 active cases within the county. (See  graphics and map for additional data points)

As additional testing resources have been reported, testing has increased in our community with more than 2,200 people tested on Wednesday and Thursday at one of the various testing facilities currently operational with the community. Cumulatively, approximately 17,100 tests have been performed within the county.

This week Governor Greg Abbott ordered local communities to tests all licensed nursing home residents and staff, with the support from local fire departments.

Prior to the state’s orders, testing of nursing homes had already begun by DPH and the Border Regional Advisory Council (BorderRAC). The DPH and BorderRAC is currently working in collaboration with the El Paso Fire Department to administer testing to more than 20 licensed nursing facilities within El Paso.

In addition to testing the staff and residents of each facility, staff are also assessing the overall nursing facilities, reviewing the COVID-19 safety protocols and processes and providing best practices as outlined by local, state and federal orders.

Members of the community who are interested in getting tested are able to learn more about the available testing throughout the county by clicking here.

The public is reminded that even infected persons with little to no symptoms can spread the virus to others. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions.

***

***(5/14/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting two (2) additional COVID-19 deaths for a total number of 43. The patients with underlying health conditions include a male in his 50s and a female in her 60s.

El Paso is also reporting 151 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,607. To-date 793 people have recovered from COVID-19; meaning there are 771 active cases within the county.

See accompanying graphics and map for additional data points.

“We once again are disappointed to report two new deaths due to COVID-19, and our hearts go out to the families of these two community members. We must remember that all of these deaths are not just numbers, they are someone’s loved one and part of a family,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “Today, we have seen a dramatic spike in positive cases, this is due in large part to the increased testing throughout the county. The spike also means that this virus is still very active in our community and so I must once again stress—as I always do—the need for everyone to take the necessary health precautions by practicing social distancing, wearing a face cover, thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water to keep you and your loved ones safe.”

Mayor Dee Margo and the Office of Emergency Management addressed the need to increase testing in our community with the Office of the Texas Governor. The state afforded El Paso additional testing site supported by the Texas Military Department Mobile Testing Team (TMD-MTT) which increased access to COVID-19 testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals within neighborhoods.

It is estimated that as of today more than 15,700 tests have been performed within the county, of those near 1,000 tests were conducted by TMD-MTT during the initial three days of testing, which began testing on Monday, May 11.

The TMD-MTT supported sites will continue tomorrow, Friday, May 15 through Saturday, May 23, at the four City facilities due to the high demand. The locations are:

  • Armijo Recreation Center and Pool; 710 E 7th Ave, El Paso, TX
  • Nations Tobin Park; 8831 Railroad Dr., El Paso, TX
  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

Testing is free and available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The testing locations are drive-thru and by appointment only. Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at WWW.TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400.

Testing is available to members of the community with or without COVID-19 symptoms. Although not required for testing, signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and loss of taste and/or smell.

Testing in the rural communities also has been extended. Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

May 19:

  • Montana Vista Fire Station #2; 5411 Paso View Drive, El Paso, TX 79938
  • Emergency Service District #2, 11440 N. Loop Drive, Socorro, TX 79927

May 20:

  • El Paso County ESD #2 District Office; 16001 Socorro Road, Fabens, TX 79838
  • West Valley Fire Department; 510 Vinton Road, Anthony, TX 79821

May 21:

  • Horizon First Baptist Church; 17018 Darrington Road, Horizon City, TX 79928
  • Emergency Service District #2; 11440 N. Loop, Socorro, TX 79927

May 22:

  • Horizon First Baptist Church; 17018 Darrington Road, Horizon City, TX 79928

Similarly to the testing locations within the City, the rural locations are by appointment only. Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at WWW.TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400.

Infected persons who have few or no symptoms can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions.

***

***(5/13/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting five (5) additional COVID-19 deaths for a total number of 41.

The patients, all of whom had underlying health conditions, include:

  • two males in their 70s,
  • a male in his 50s,
  • a female in her 40s, and
  • a female in her 70s.

El Paso is also reporting 43 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,456. To-date 751 people have recovered from COVID-19; meaning there are 664 active cases within the county.

“It is with a heavy heart that we are once again reporting a spike in COVID-19 deaths with the loss of five members of our community. We send our very deepest condolences to their loved ones,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “One of the trends that we are seeing is that COVID-19 is gravely affecting those who are diabetic, have high blood pressure and/or have heart disease. If you or a loved one have these underlying health conditions, I urge you to take the necessary health precautions by practicing social distancing, wearing a face cover, thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water.”

Today, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the federal government has extended El Paso’s existing community-based testing site through June 30, 2020. Mayor Dee Margo and the Office of Emergency Management have been working with the Office of the Texas Governor to address testing in the community.

The existing drive-thru COVID-19 specimen collection site was opened on March 23, 2020, and is managed by DPH, the Border Regional Advisory Council, and other public health partners. The site is currently testing the general public that are presenting symptoms. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and loss of taste and/or smell.

Testing is free and takes place by appointment Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. An appointment can be made by calling (915) 212-0783 during operational hours.

Infected persons who have few or no symptoms can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions.

Residents with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1. To report non-compliance, residents are asked to call the El Paso Police Department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400.

***(5/12/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting three (3) additional COVID-19 deaths for a total number of 36. The patients with underlying health conditions include two males in their 60s and a female in her 90s.

El Paso is also reporting 65 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,413. To-date 719 people have recovered from COVID-19. There are 658 active cases within the county. It is estimated that as of today more than 13,300 tests have been performed.

See accompanying graphics and map for additional data points.

“It is another heartbreaking day for our community as we report three new deaths due to COVID-19. We send our deepest condolences to the families of these three individuals,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “Our community is once again seeing a considerable increase in positive COVID-19 cases. I must once again urge everyone—as I do nearly every day—to please, take responsibility for your own actions, if not for your own health then for the health of your loved ones.”

Infected persons who have few or no symptoms can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions.

Residents with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1. To report non-compliance, residents are asked to call the El Paso Police Department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400.

***

***(5/12/2020)

The City of El Paso has partnered with PBS El Paso and the County of El Paso to offer a $1,500 cash prize for a Covid-19 public service announcement video.

The El Paso Safe PSA contest is now open and the final deadline for submissions will be Monday, May 18, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

The contest asks everyday El Pasoans to submit a short video that highlights CDC guidelines, such as maintaining social distancing or wearing PPE when in public.

Videos can be anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds in length, and the top two entries will air on PBS El Paso. In addition, the first place winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize and a second place winner will receive $500.

“We are very excited about this partnership because if you log on to any social media platform like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, you’ll see that people are exploring their creativity with dance and humor,” said Jessica Herrera, Director of International and Economic Development for the City of El Paso. “This partnership is a great opportunity to capture that creativity while at the same time educating and illustrating their love for our community.”

The winning videos will be announced the week of May 25 and will air in June 2020 on PBS-El Paso, the City TV (Spectrum Ch. 1300, DTV Ch. 13.4, AT&T U-Verse Ch. 99) and on the City of El Paso social media pages to include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Entries will be judged based on four criteria: creativity, message effectiveness, how well the video represents El Paso and the quality of video and sound.

Click here to view the video invitation

***

***(5/11/2020) 

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting 8 (eight) new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,348, the number of deaths remains at 33.

To-date 685 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 630 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 702 females and 646 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 80 patients hospitalized, and 34 of those are currently in ICU.

City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza reminds the public that whether you have symptoms or not, you may have the virus and not know it. We know now that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to others by infected persons who have few or no symptoms. Even if an infected person is asymptomatic, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk.

On Monday, May 11, the El Paso City Council unanimously approved extending an emergency ordinance that extended the disaster declaration. The Council also unanimously approved to extend a second emergency ordinance establishing emergency measures.

Both ordinances were first issued on March 13, 2020 and were set to expire May 13, 2020. They will both remain in effect until June 10, 2020.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. The public is asked to continue observing health practices that protect everyone, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

Residents with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1. To report non-compliance, residents are asked to call the El Paso Police Department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400.

***

***(5/11/2020) COVID19 Testing Available for Symptomatic, Asymptomatic Residents

Area residents who do not have COVID-19 symptoms are now able to get tested for COVID-19 virus at one of the four recently opened mobile testing sites.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo contacted Governor Greg Abbott on Friday of last week and was able to obtain the Governor’s support to send a Texas Military Department Mobile Testing Team (TMD-MTT) to El Paso to increase access to COVID-19 testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

The Texas Department of Emergency Management, TMD-MTT, and the Office of Emergency Management worked over the weekend to stand up the mobile sites within neighborhoods by today, May 11, making testing more accessible for members of the public that may have not been able to get to other testing sites.

The testing locations are drive-thru and by appointment only. Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at WWW.TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400.

Testing is free and available to members of the community with or without COVID-19 symptoms. Although not required for testing, signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and loss of taste and/or smell.

If residents do not call or register for an appointment, they can still show up at the site and will be instructed to either register on their phone or call the number to schedule accordingly.

Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

May 12 & 13:

  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

May 14, 15 & 16:

  • Armijo Recreation Center and Pool; 710 E 7th Ave, El Paso, TX
  • Nations Tobin Park; 8831 Railroad Dr., El Paso, TX
  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***(5/10/2020) 

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting one (1) additional COVID-19 death, bringing the total number of deaths to 33. The male patient was in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

El Paso is also reporting 18 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,340. To-date 685 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 622 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 697 females and 643 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 85 patients hospitalized, and 39 of those are currently in ICU.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, reminds the public that whether you have symptoms or not, you may have the virus and not know it.

“We are disappointed to report another death due to the virus, and we send our sincerest condolences to his family,” Ocaranza said. “We want to again insist that the community wear a face covering every time you are out in public. Face coverings are a second layer of protection, but it does not mean it will protect you 100 percent if you must socialize with the public. Our best defense is to stay home and reduce our interactions with others as much as possible, particularly our most vulnerable population. Remember that the most vulnerable population are seniors, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart and lung problems who are more susceptible to the dangers of this deadly virus.”

The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. We should continue to observe practices that protect everyone, especially those who are the most vulnerable. This is why it is crucial to remain distant from anybody not living in the same household and wearing a face covering.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the El Paso Police Department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400. Any violation to the amended Emergency Directive will be issued a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. Anyone with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1.

Health questions about COVID-19 can be made by calling the 21-COVID hotline, which is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For referrals to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***(5/10/2020) COVID-19 Testing Expanded

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and the Office of Emergency Management have been working with the Office of the Texas Governor and the Texas Department of Emergency Management to mobilize mobile testing teams increasing access to COVID-19 testing.

“Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases and deaths, I contacted Governor Abbott on Friday for assistance with more testing capacity and hot-spot epidemiology analysis,” Margo said. “He agreed to send his Rapid Response Team to El Paso immediately, and they arrived Saturday to begin supporting our Public Health team. I’m gratified with his support of El Paso.”

Since early April, testing through the Department of Public Health and private labs has increased approximately 32 percent. The Rapid Response Team and the City worked quickly to stand up the mobile sites within neighborhoods to help make testing more accessible for members of the public with symptoms that may have not been able to get to other testing sites.

The testing locations are drive-thru and by appointment only. Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at WWW.TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400.

Testing is free and available to members of the community with symptoms of COVID-19 and those in high-risk groups. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and loss of taste and/or smell.

If residents do not call or register for an appointment, they can still show up at the site and will be instructed to either register on their phone or call the number to schedule accordingly. The dates and locations are as follow:

May 11:

  • Armijo Recreation Center and Pool; 710 E 7th Ave, El Paso, TX
  • Nations Tobin Park; 8831 Railroad Dr., El Paso, TX
  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

May 12 & 13:

  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

May 14, 15 & 16:

  • Armijo Recreation Center and Pool; 710 E 7th Ave, El Paso, TX
  • Nations Tobin Park; 8831 Railroad Dr., El Paso, TX
  • Esperanza Acosta Moreno Library; 12480 Pebble Hills Blvd, El Paso, TX
  • Memorial Swimming Pool; 3251 Copper Ave., El Paso, TX

For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***(5/9/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting 46 new positive COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,322, the number of deaths remains at 32.

To-date 672 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 618 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 690 females and 632 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 82 patients hospitalized, and 40 of those are currently in ICU. It is estimated that as of today more than 12,000 tests have been performed.

“We want to again remind the community to keep our mother’s safe this Mother’s Day,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “Tomorrow is a day that we celebrate our mothers, but we have to remember that being in close contact with them places them in danger of getting this deadly virus. Remember that seniors are more susceptible to the dangers of this deadly virus. Don’t go visit your mom in-person. Do not have physical contact with her, but find different and creative ways to connect and celebrate with her.”

With few exceptions, the majority of COVID-19 patients who have died in El Paso County have been seniors who are the most vulnerable members of our community. It is important to remind everyone that COVID-19 infections can be prevented by staying home and keeping your distance from others that do not live in your immediate household.

Dr. Ocaranza reminds the public that whether you have symptoms or not, you may have the virus and not know it. We know now that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to others by infected persons who have few or no symptoms. Even if an infected person is asymptomatic, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk. Because of the hidden nature of this threat, everyone should rigorously follow the practices specified in the amended directive, all of which facilitate a safe and measured reopening of Texas.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. We should continue to observe practices that protect everyone, especially those who are the most vulnerable. This is why it is crucial to remain distant from anybody not living in the same household and wearing a face covering.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the El Paso Police Department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400. Any violation to the amended Emergency Directive will be issued a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. Anyone with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1.

Health questions about COVID-19 can be made by calling the 21-COVID hotline, which is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For referrals to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***(5/8/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting two (2) additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 32. The patients with underlying health conditions include two males in their 60s.

El Paso is also reporting 86 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,276. To-date 643 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 601 active cases within the county.

Positive cases in El Paso County include 663 females and 612 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 83 patients who are hospitalized, and 47 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

The DPH has been working with the private laboratories, who are only required to report positive numbers, to obtain their total numbers. Based on this reporting, it is estimated that as of today more than 11,800 tests have been performed.

“It is another heartbreaking day for our community as we have the misfortune to report two new deaths due to COVID-19. We send our deepest condolences to the families of these two individuals,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority.

“Our community is once again seeing a considerable increase in positive COVID-19 cases. The number will continue to go up if residents do not take this pandemic seriously. I have said it over and over again that we must remain at home if possible, wear face coverings when out in public and continue to frequently wash your hands with soap and water. Again, I urge residents to take responsibility and do all the necessary preventative measures to keep themselves and others safe.”

On Monday, May 4, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order Number 21, which allows for the opening of more businesses. While it is important to support the local economy, health officials urge the community to review and follow the health prevention recommendations in the order to help slow the spread of the virus.

We know now that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to others by infected persons who have few or no symptoms. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk. Because of the hidden nature of this threat, everyone should rigorously follow the practices specified in the amended directive, all of which facilitate a safe and measured reopening of Texas. The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. We should continue to observe practices that protect everyone, including those who are most vulnerable.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the police department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400. 

Any violation to the amended Emergency Directive will be issued a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. Anyone with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1.

***

***(5/7/2020)

During a Thursday evening news conference Mayor Dee Margo and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that the area has 1190 total COVID19 Cases, and an additional seven deaths raising the total to 30 in the area.

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting seven (7) additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 30. The patients include four (4) males in their 80s, a male in his 70s, a female in her 60s and a female in her 40s, all of who had underlying health conditions.

El Paso is also reporting 71 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,190. To-date 619 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 541 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 625 females and 565 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 62patients who are hospitalized, and 40 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

“We once again are saddened to report seven new deaths due to COVID-19, and our hearts go out to the families of these seven individuals,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “We are now at 30 deaths in our community – one too many. We want to remind the public that the best defense against this deadly virus is staying home, practice social distancing and frequently washing your hands with soap and water. We are all vulnerable to contracting this deadly virus, so we must all do our part in order to stop the spread of this virus in our community.”

City and County officials have amended the current Local Emergency Directive in response to Governor Abbott’s Executive Order Number 21 issued on Monday, May 4 in an effort to stimulate the Texas economy. Part of the amended directive will go into effect on Friday, May 8 at 12:01 a.m. and will incrementally start to re-open the economy.

We know now that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to others by infected persons who have few or no symptoms. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk.

Because of the hidden nature of this threat, everyone should rigorously follow the practices specified in the amended directive, all of which facilitate a safe and measured reopening of Texas. The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. We should continue to observe practices that protect everyone, including those who are most vulnerable.

The amended directive will include changes to begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2020, some of which have already been implemented by the State of Texas:

City Facilities

  • City Facilities shall remain closed until further notice

o   All city parks and recreational areas and facilities, including City tennis courts, City basketball courts, hike and bike trails, public swimming pools, water parks, splash pads, public museums and public libraries.

o   The area near Socorro Independent School District Student Activities Complex (“SAC”) located near 1300 Joe Battle Boulevard.

o   The use or any type of recreational vehicle at any outdoor area is prohibited.

o   City parks will remain closed except for use of designated walking paths adjacent to streets, parks, or within public parks.

o   Franklin Mountains State Park shall remain closed until further directed by Texas State officials.

Outdoor Sports

  • Sports that do not include contact with other participants and have no more than four participants play the sport at a time.
  • The use of all private and public golf courses, private tennis courts and fishing is permitted in accordance to the guidelines.
  • Bars, sexually oriented businesses, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys, video arcades, amusement parks, water parks, splash pads, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios shall remain closed until further notice.

Retail Stores

  • In-store retail services are allowed to operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the retail establishment.
  • Dine-in restaurant services, for restaurants that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the restaurant. Value services are prohibited except for vehicles with placards or plates for disabled parking.
  • Movie theaters may operate up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theater for any screening.
  • Shopping malls may operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the shopping mall.

o   Food court dining areas, play areas and interactive displays and setting must remain closed until further notice or directed.

  • Wedding venues and services required to conduct weddings may operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility.
  • Cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons/shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade may open by ensuring at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations.
  • Tanning salons must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations.
  • Private swimming pools (This does not apply to City-owned pools, which will remained closed.)

o   Indoor swimming pools may operate up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the pool facility

o   Outdoor swimming pools may operate at up to 25 percent of normal operating limits as determined by the pool operator.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, May 18, 2020:

Offices

  • Offices consisting of more than five individuals or 25 percent of the total office workforce must adhere to maintaining appropriate social distancing.
  • Non-essential manufacturing services, for facilities that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility.

Gyms/Exercise Facilities

  • Classes must operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the gym or exercise facility.

o   Locker rooms and shower facilities must remain closed, but restrooms may open.

Churches/Places of Worship

  • At-risk population (those who are 65 or older, especially those with chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; chronic heart disease; severe obesity; diabetes; chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; liver disease; or weakened immune system) are asked to watch or participate service remotely.
  • Facility designate an area inside and reserve for at-risk population, or offer a service for at-risk population attendees only.
  • Ensure proper spacing between attendees.
  • Alternate rows between attendees (every other row left empty).

The updated Local Directive once completed will be made available at www.epstrong.org under “Health Orders.”

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the police department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400. Any violation to the amended Emergency Directive will be issued a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. Anyone with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1.

Health questions about COVID-19 can be made by calling the 21-COVID hotline which is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For referral to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***(5/6/2020) El Paso area has 1119 COVID positive cases, 23 deaths, 559 recoveries and 537 active cases

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting one (1) additional COVID-19 death, bringing the total number of deaths to 23. The male patient was in his 90s with underlying health conditions.

El Paso is also reporting 39 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 1,119. To-date 559 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 537 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 590 females and 529 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 68 patients who are hospitalized, and 39 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

The DPH has been working with the private laboratories, who are only required to report positive numbers, to obtain their total numbers. Based on this reporting, it is estimated that as of today more than 10,700 tests have been performed.

The majority of COVID-19 patients who have died in El Paso County have been seniors who are the most vulnerable members of our community. It is important to remind everyone that COVID-19 infections can be prevented by staying home and remaining distant from others that do not live in their immediate household.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, reminds the public that whether you have symptoms or not, you may have the virus and not know it. This is why it is crucial to remain distant from anybody not living in the same household and wearing a face covering.

“We are saddened to report another death due to the virus, and we send our deepest condolences to his family,” Ocaranza said. “If you do not live in the same household with your parents, grandparents and other members of your extended family – do not physically visit them. You can still see and talk with them, but using a different method like FaceTime, phone calls, online meeting chats. The lives of the ones you love are worth more than a get together that can result in sharing or contracting the virus. We need everybody to do their part and take responsibility for their actions to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.”

***

***(5/6/2020) City: Parks remain closed during Mother’s Day Weekend

The City of El Paso reminds the public that gathering and picnicking at City parks and Franklin Mountain State Park during Mother’s Day Weekend is prohibited in order to protect family and friends from the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

“In order to protect our most vulnerable residents, we should all safely honor our loved ones through means other than gathering. This Mother’s Day, I urge El Pasoans to responsibly celebrate their families by continuing to follow social distancing guidelines,” said City of El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. “I remind the community we have the power to slow the spread of the virus through our own personal behavior.”

The Local Emergency Directive outlines that City-owned parks to include playgrounds, basketball courts, dog parks and skate parks remain closed until further notice.

Use of selected walking paths have reopened with social distancing guidelines in place.

Mother’s Day Weekend is one of the busiest for gatherings, but to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect families, residents are not allowed to gather at parks.

The City and County of El Paso also prohibit public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling. 

This means family get-togethers with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or friends who do not live in same household is banned as a preventative measure to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

Law enforcement and code enforcement officers will issue citations to those who do not adhere to the order. The use of McKelligon Canyon and Scenic Drive by the public remains prohibited.

The Local Emergency Directive allows for healthy outdoor activities such as walking, running or biking around neighborhoods and selected walking paths provided residents maintain the 6-foot social distancing requirement.

***

***(5/5/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting 51 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s cumulative number to 1,080, the number of deaths remains at 22.

To-date 514 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 544 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 569 females and 511 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 71 patients who are hospitalized, and 40 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

While private labs are only required to report positive numbers, the Department of Public Health has been working with the private laboratories to obtain their total numbers. Based on this reporting, it is estimated that more than 10,200 tests have been performed.

The Public Health Department will soon begin antibody testing with a subset of public safety and healthcare workers to allow staff to analyze the process in preparation to expand the special testing to the public. Antibody testing is a blood test that indicates if a person may have previously been exposed to COVID-19 and developed antibodies.

City and County officials are in the process of reviewing the current Local Emergency Directive in response to today’s Governor Greg Abbott’s amendments to expand business openings in an effort to re-open the Texas economy.

“We can only continue to re-open our economy if the community does their part to social distance, wear face coverings and not gather,” said Mayor Dee Margo. “It is critical everyone, businesses and residents, follow these guidelines so we do not jeopardize our public health.”

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, reminds the public that El Paso County is still seeing positive cases on a daily basis and for that reason must still work to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“If you love your mom, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, any mother figure in your life show them your love them by not visiting them in person this Mother’s Day. Give them the gift of health and life, and keep them safe from COVID-19,” Ocaranza said.

“Stop making excuses on why it is ok to visit family members and friends who do not live in your immediate household. Social gatherings are simply not allowed. Meaning social gatherings consist of anyone who does not live in your immediate household, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. are prohibited. We need everyone to please take this serious and take care of each other and not risk losing a loved one.”

The public is reminded again that face coverings are locally mandated, but they are not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or exercising outdoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.

Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

It is recommended that face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands before and after removing the covering.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the police department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400. Anyone with questions about the local directive can call 3-1-1.

Health questions about COVID-19 can be made by calling the 21-COVID hotline which is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For referral to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org

***

*** (5/5/2020)

Governor Abbott announced Tuesday that barbershop and hair salons in Texas can open this Friday, May 8th.  The announcement came during a Tuesday afternoon news conference where Abbott announced other upcoming dates for specific industries within the state to open.

Also allowed to open at the end of this week would be nail salons; so long as social distancing and other guidelines are followed. Abbott said that gyms in the state would be allowed to open on May 18th.

Guidelines for hair stylists include the mandate that they will be able to only work with one customer at a time. For barber shops customers waiting for service, they will have to maintain 6 foot separation or wait outside.

The guidelines for gyms are a bit stricter, as they can only operate at a maximum of 25% of capacity; showers and locker rooms will be closed, and equipment must be disinfected after each use.

As far as bars, the Governor said that the state is in the process of developing guidelines for those businesses to reopen safely.

Abbott’s announcement comes almost a week after businesses in the state reopened in what some described as ‘Phase 1,’ with restaurants and some stores welcomed back customers, albeit at 25% of the business’ customer capacity.

*** (5/4/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting 31 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s cumulative number to 1,029, the number of deaths remains at 22.

To-date 486 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 521 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 540 females and 489 males; see accompanying graphics and map.

There are 65 patients who are hospitalized, and 38 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU. Health staff reported a clerical error in the hospitalization numbers reported yesterday which should have been 59 hospitalized, 38 in ICU and 18 on ventilators.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, reminds the public to continue following the City and County’s Local Directives, which include wearing face coverings and avoiding social gatherings, especially as we approach Mother’s Day weekend.

“Residents need to understand that social gathering are not allowed,” Ocaranza said. “Going shopping or out to eat with anyone that does not live with you such as your extended family or friends is not allowed. If you must go to the store, then please go alone and keep it to a minimum and try to avoid being out of your home. Take responsibility for yourself in order to keep our community safe.”

The public is reminded again that face coverings are locally mandated, but they are not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or exercising outdoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household. Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

It is recommended that face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands before and after removing the covering.

***

***998 cases of COVID19, No new deaths, total at 22; DPH share that 474 people have recovered, leaving 502 active cases within the county (5/3/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting 12 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s cumulative number to 998, the number of deaths remains at 22.

To-date 474 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 502 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 522 females and 476 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are now 31 patients who are hospitalized, and 21of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

The community needs to understand that this is not over,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority.

“People are still testing positive for COVID-19 and we need to see more decreases in order to claim a flattening of our curve. The danger still lurks in our community, especially as we approach Mother’s Day weekend, and each of us must still take responsibility to slow the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable loved ones. We want to remind everyone that family gatherings with anyone who is not in your immediate household means that you are placing your loved ones—such as your mothers, aunts and grandmothers—at risk of contracting the virus. We need everyone to please take this serious and take care of each other.”

The City and County of El Paso prohibit public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling unit is prohibited. As has been stated, this means visiting your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or friends who do not live in same household as you is prohibited as a preventative measure to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

***

*** (5/2/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting 25 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s cumulative number to 986, the number of deaths remains at 22.

To-date 455 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 509 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 519 females and 467 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are now 61 patients who are hospitalized, and 39 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

“We need residents to understand that this virus does not discriminate, it attacks all ages and we need everybody to adhere and abide by our directive,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “If you do not need to be out of your home, don’t! You are putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. People are dying and others are in the ICU. Don’t think this can’t happen to you or the ones you love; practice social distancing as best you can, wear your face covering when out in public and wash your hands with soap and water!”

The City and County of El Paso prohibit public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling unit is prohibited.

This means visiting your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or friends who do not live in same household as you is prohibited as a preventative measure to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

***

*** City’s total COVID19 cases now 961, Additional death raises toll to 22 (5/1/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting one (1) additional COVID-19 death, bringing the total number of deaths to 22. The male patient was in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

El Paso is also reporting 37 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 961. To-date 419 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 520 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 505 females and 458 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are now 58 patients who are hospitalized, and 30 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

“We are saddened to report another death due to the virus, and we send our deepest condolences to his family,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “As I have said over and over again, stay home! Please don’t go out if you don’t have to, don’t visit friends or families who don’t live under your same roof.”

Ocaranza said there is a strong correlation between the Easter break and the spike in positive cases, and he warns that the community will very likely see another spike in cases—or worse, a rise in deaths—due to social gathers expected to occur during the Mother’s Day weekend.

“If you absolutely must go out, wear a face covering because anyone, even those without symptoms, can spread the virus. If you must go to the store or to the mall do so quickly and then go home,” Ocaranza added. “If you insist on going to a restaurant, only do so with family who live in the same household. Wear a mask when entering the restraint and remove it when you are eating or drinking. It is about using common sense to protect your loved ones. Don’t put yourself or your family at risk.”

The Local Emergency Directive has been amended due to the ongoing upward trend in cases. El Pasoans must adhere to wearing a face covering when out conducting essential business or tasks.

The updated directive is available at www.epstrong.org under “Health Orders.”

The directive does not alter Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders as Texas cities are not prohibited from mandating the use of face coverings, but local governments are not allowed to fine or jail people for failing to do so.

The City and County of El Paso also prohibited public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling unit is prohibited.

Plainly, this means visiting your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or friends who do not live in same household as you is prohibited as a preventative measure to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

A face covering is not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or exercising outdoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.

Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand-washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

It is also recommended that the face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands immediately after removing the covering.

Testing in Rural Communities

The Office of Emergency Management has been working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management to provide additional testing sites for the County’s rural communities. The dates and locations are as follow, please note a correction by the State for the Fabens and Horizon locations:

May 12

  • Fabens: El Paso County ESD2 District Office, 16001 Socorro Rd., Fabens TX
  • Montana Vista: Montana Vista Fire Station 2, 5411 Paso View Dr., El Paso, TX

May 13

  • San Elizario: San Elizario Fire Station-1415 San Antonio Rd., San Elizario, TX
  • Horizon: Horizon First Baptist Church; 17018 Darrington, Horizon, TX
  • Vinton:  West Valley Fire Department: 510 Vinton Rd, Anthony, TX

Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400. Testing is open to all regardless of location of residence.

The goal is to test 60 individuals per site; however, additional testing may be available depending on demand and availability.

The time of the testing will be from 9am to 5pm. If residents do not call or register for an appointment, they can still show up at the site and will be instructed to either register on their phone or call the number to schedule accordingly.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the police department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400 or 3-1-1. The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For referral to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

 

***

*** El Paso DPH: 924 cases of COVID19, Deaths now at 21 (4/30/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting three (3) additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 21. The patients include a male in his 50s, a female in her 70s and a female in her 80s, all of who had underlying health conditions.

El Paso is also reporting 37 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county’s total number to 924. To-date 397 people have recovered from COVID-19; consequently, there are 506 active cases within the county. Positive cases in El Paso County include 486 females and 438 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are now 53 patients who are hospitalized, and 31 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

“We are disappointed to report another three deaths due to COVID-19, and our hearts go out to their families. The deaths we have seen are mostly made up of the most vulnerable and there is a strong correlation between the Easter break and the spike in positive cases,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. “Mother’s Day is just around the corner. We want to remind everyone that gatherings with anyone who is not in your immediate household means that you are placing your loved ones—your mothers and grandmothers—at risk of contracting the virus. We need everyone to please take this serious and take care of each other.”

EMERGENCY DIRECTIVE AMENDED: Face Coverings Required, Gatherings Prohibited

Due in large part to the ongoing upward trend in positive cases, Mayor Dee Margo, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza are amending the current Local Emergency Directive to make face coverings mandatory and prohibit all public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling unit.

The updated Directive once completed will be made available at www.epstrong.org under “Health Orders.”

All individuals over the age of two (2), are required to wear some form of face covering over their nose and mouth, while outside of their home or residence. A face covering may include cloth masks such as bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters that fit snugly but comfortable against the face secured with ties or ear loops.

Parents and guardians of children over the age of two (2) and under the age of ten (10) shall be responsible for appropriately masking children when outside their residence.

A face covering is not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or exercising outdoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.

Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand-washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises the use of simple cloth face coverings can slow the spread of the virus by helping people, who may have the virus and do not know it, from transmitting it to others. (See: CDC Website)

It is also recommended that the face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands immediately after removing the covering.

TESTING EXPANDED: Locations Added to Region’s Rural Communities

The Office of Emergency Management has been working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management to provide additional testing sites for the County’s rural communities. The dates and locations are as follow:

  • May 12

o   Fabens: Fabens Fire Station-16001 Socorro Rd., Fabens, TX

o   Montana Vista: Montana Vista Fire Station 2, 5411 Paso View Dr., El Paso, TX

  • May 13

o   San Elizario: San Elizario Fire Station-1415 San Antonio Rd., San Elizario, TX

o   Horizon: Horizon First Baptist Church; 12018 Darrington Rd., Horizon, TX

o   Vinton:  West Valley Fire Department: 510 Vinton Rd, Anthony, TX

Citizens are asked to make an appointment 24 hours prior to the testing date either online at TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or by calling 512-883-2400. Testing is open to all regardless of location of residence. The goal is to test 60 individuals per site; however, additional testing may be available depending on demand and availability.

The time of the testing will be from 9am to 5pm. If residents do not call or register for an appointment, they can still show up at the site and will be instructed to either register on their phone or call the number to schedule accordingly.

Residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling the police department non-emergency at (915) 832-4400 or 3-1-1. The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral to services, contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

**

CBP Officers seize 1,000 counterfeit COVID-19 test kits, other non-compliant items

Since the beginning of the pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have seen an increase in unapproved, counterfeit, or non-FDA compliant COVID-19 tests, hand sanitizer, facemasks, and mask filters crossing the border.

On May 16, at the Santa Teresa port of entry,  a 36-year-old Mexican male was traveling into Mexico with a suitcase. A CBP officer interviewed him and found “inconsistencies in his story;” so he was referred for an intensive examination.

During an examination of the subject’s suitcase, CBP officers discovered 1,000 counterfeit COVID-19 Rapid Tests. The test kits were seized pending further investigation.

Additionally, on May 17, CBP officers from the Ysleta port of entry stopped a 62-year-old U.S. citizen female with 1,000 facemasks, 2,740 mask filters, and 60 1-liter bottles of hand sanitizer.

Officials say all of the products were found to lack proper registration, labeling, and did not comply with criteria set by the Food and Drug Administration; all of the products were seized.

“Some appear to be exploiting the pandemic for financial gain, leaving the consumer at risk. These products may result in serious consequences to the consumer, whether that end user is in the United States or another country,” said CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha,

“CBP officers are committed to ensuring that all items being imported and exported meet critical health and safety standards.”

Photo courtesy CBP
Photo courtesy CBP

Health safety experts identify 8 types of misdiagnosis that can harm patients in COVID19 era

HOUSTON – As healthcare systems handle the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of misdiagnosing a patient increases.

Health safety experts at Baylor College of Medicine and Press Ganey Associates LLC in Boston identify eight types of diagnostic errors anticipated due to the pandemic and highlight strategies to minimize them. Their report was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

“All of these misdiagnoses can lead to patient harm from delays in the correct treatment,” said Dr. Hardeep Singh, author and professor of medicine at Baylor and the Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety (IQuESt). “Testing for COVID-19 has been a problem, but we have also seen new issues emerge such as reports of patients not seeking help due to fear of the pandemic, with delayed diagnosis of heart attacks, stroke diagnoses and typical emergencies.”

“In this challenging time, it is essential to understand the types of diagnostic errors that can occur and build highly reliable systems to help support our clinicians and prevent harm to patients,” said Dr. Tejal Gandhi, the chief safety and transformation officer at Press Ganey.

By studying rapidly evolving literature and news for emerging diagnosis issues, Singh and Gandhi developed names for the eight types of diagnostic errors in an effort to help clinicians, other healthcare personnel and the public identify them:

  • Classic: A delayed COVID-19 diagnosis due to lack of accessible tests or tests that read false-negative.
  • Anomalous: A COVID-19 patient misdiagnosed as non-COVID when they present uncharacteristic symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, especially if they lack respiratory symptoms.
  • Anchor: Assuming someone has COVID-19 when they may have another illness instead, such as bacterial pneumonia or sinusitis. Singh explains this can make their conditions worse, especially if the patient requires antibiotics.
  • Secondary: Because COVID-19 is a new virus, clinicians may miss underlying or secondary conditions that it can cause, like blood clot related lung complications. New inflammation syndromes in children are just being described, for example.
  • Acute Collateral: Because some people fear venturing into hospitals or clinics due to potential exposure, many are remaining home even when they have stroke or heart attack symptoms.
  • Chronic Collateral: Some patients may have a delayed diagnosis of a serious condition due to appointment cancellations and the rescheduling of elective procedures like biopsies or mammograms.
  • Strain: For places experiencing a surge, non-COVID patients may be overlooked because of the focus on COVID-19.
  • Unintended: The risk of misdiagnosing a patient because of indirect contact with them through telehealth or barriers presented by personal protective equipment.

Singh and Gandhi propose solutions to help prevent these types of diagnostic errors through technology, communication, teamwork and organizational strategies.

“There is no magic pill that is going to solve this, but we can definitely improve the work system we practice in and seek help when needed,” Singh said.

 

  • Use up-to-date technology that helps healthcare providers make better decisions and scale safety practices to address possible risks to patients.

 

  • Address communication issues by encouraging patients to discuss any concerns they might have and by ensuring follow-up appointments via telehealth visits.

 

  • Use buddy systems in the hospital or clinic, especially for less experienced physicians or healthcare workers so that they can easily ask for advice.

 

  • Minimize stress and anxiety in the workplace by offering counseling and peer support. Encourage staff to ask questions, seek help and report concerns.

 

  • Create learning systems and networks by sharing data and knowledge surrounding newly discovered risks so that errors can be minimized.

Singh emphasizes that it also is essential for the public to seek medical assistance and not remain home if they are experiencing concerning symptoms.

“One of the big messages for the public is the acute and chronic collateral misdiagnoses that are occurring due to the pandemic,” he said. “If you are having new symptoms that are of concern, you must seek help, whether it’s through telehealth or in person.”

Singh is funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01HS27363), the CanTest Research Collaborative funded by a Cancer Research UK Population Research Catalyst award (C8640/A23385) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Ft. Bliss Soldier creates COVID-19 Forecasting Model for El Paso

An unexpected hero in the COVID-19 pandemic hails from a specialty that few outside the Army knew existed: The 1st Armored Division’s Operations Research and Systems Analysis officer, or ORSA.

Maj. Evan Wolf, a Cozad, Nebraska native, and University of Texas-El Paso Alumni, created a progression rate model for Fort Bliss leadership in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. His model was used to assist the City of El Paso while their task force was developing one suited to their unique needs.

Reviewing the data from across the borderland and Juarez, Mexico, along with trends across the DoD, Wolf enabled Fort Bliss leadership to use the model to analyze trends for its own response efforts, and the additional needs that William Beaumont Army Medical Center may expect in the weeks and months ahead.

“Medical modeling is critical to save lives as part of predictive analysis. It helps us make decisions, and forecast usage for things like ICU beds and ventilators, and predict when we might exceed a capacity point,” said Derrick Washington, Interim Director of Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) for the garrison at Fort Bliss, and the Chief, Installation Plans and Operations. “Fort Bliss used Maj. Wolf’s model as a consideration in making our COVID-19 response decisions, among them was the command’s decision to go to more stringent protection measures early-on to protect the force.”

Both Acting Senior Commander Brig. Gen. Matthew Eichburg and Washington recognized that Wolf’s model might be helpful to the city of El Paso leadership, who was starting to create their own.

When asked how it feels to help his community during a time like this, he said it was inspiring and unexpected.

“Its kind of humbling. Considering all the models there are online, and how many state experts there are, I didn’t really expect my model to go to that level. I was happy that it was useful at the division level, but I was kind of shocked when there were discussions that they wanted to share it with the city,” Wolf said.

The collaboration and means to improve his model after talking to Army Medical experts and experts from the city of El Paso was very rewarding to Wolf, as his analysis on the pandemic is far from over.

“Being able to have the different perspectives from William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso’s medical experts present, their planning professionals; they had a lot of considerations to include. It was great to bring in different perspectives and be able to sharp shoot how the model was built and what parameters were used,” said Wolf.

“It helped keep what I’m building honest and make sure it’s as accurate as possible based on the number of unknowns surrounding COVID-19.”

Fort Bliss and El Paso have a long history of collaboration.

“This installation doesn’t turn into a separate entity from the community – we have a very team-centric relationship and it shows. It means a lot to know that we always have a seat at the city’s emergency management center, and to share advances with the city whenever we can. It doesn’t feel like a city and a separate post, it feels like a team,” said Washington.

ORSAs, known as functional area 49 officers, serve around the world in organization levels like unified combatant commands, Army service component commands, division headquarters, Army analytical organizations, and the Department of the Army. ORSAs are uniquely skilled officers – problem solvers – who produce analysis and decision support products to underpin critical decisions by leaders and managers at all levels of the Department of Defense (DoD).

Graduating from Cozad High School in 2002, Wolf commissioned as a combat engineer at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He has a master’s degree in engineering management from Missouri School of Science and Technology (2011) and a Ph.D. from University of Texas-El Paso in civil engineering (2018).

Research is something Wolf is passionate about and he aspires to someday serve at the U.S Army Engineer Research and Development Center, or ERDC.

“I am very detailed-oriented,” said Wolf. “I like to look at the details of things and the ability to support the mission from that aspect. I was drawn to FA 49 because of a lot of the opportunities for professional development and training to make sure we’re relevant on what’s going on, be it online or opportunities to go to schools.”

Before he was focused on forecasting for the COVID-19 pandemic response, as the 1AD ORSA, Wolf used data to recommend potential solutions for complex strategic, operational, tactical, and business issues and helped advise on paths leadership could choose to organize, man, train, equip, sustain, and resource its force.

Some of the projects he has supported included analysis for the division’s Supply Support Activity operations to ‘right-size’ what level of support is needed to gain efficiencies or to reduce or resolve potential backlogs. He has also provided forecasting regarding certain military occupational specialties.

“I look at what people need and where I can see a way to help them,” said Wolf. “For instance, it might be a quick study of 68W’s, or combat medic specialists, for the division’s surgeon cell to help frame recommendations on retention and training that will provide a readiness forecast for them. Or, I’ve also looked at other military occupational specialties and missions, to ensure we are on the right track or where we are short, or to potentially inform on unit-maintained equipment (UME) contracts, where there may be risk if we don’t have those pieces,” Wolf said.

Wolf has spent the greater part of the last six years in El Paso and continues to be impressed with the partnership between the 1AD, Fort Bliss, the El Paso community and city leadership.

“Understanding when I built the model from scratch, it wasn’t going to be perfect because no model is,” said Wolf. “In talking to the city experts, the more I had to explain it to others, it made me more aware of what’s going on with it. A lot of good came out of our coordination; just talking the model with them demonstrates the bond between the post and community. We’re our own entities, but we work as one,” he said.

Author: Lt. Col. Lindsey Elder – 1st Armored Division 

Endeavors receives $3.25M Grant from CARES Act to assist Veterans impacted by COVID19

Earlier this month, Endeavors, a social services non-profit, received an additional $3.25M to serve over 80 counties throughout Texas, including the City’s District 7, through their Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program.

“We are working quickly to help Veterans and their families in the El Paso community to get back on their feet by providing financial assistance to those who are behind on rent,” said Justin Rotti, Endeavors Outreach Specialist.

“We can also offer access to other community resources and short-term emergency housing for Veterans currently experiencing homelessness.”

Endeavors has immediate financial assistance for Veterans in our El Paso community impacted by COVID-19.

  • Financial assistance for Veterans at risk of homelessness who are behind on their rent
  • Short-term emergency housing for Veterans experiencing homelessness
  • Access to community resources through case management​

“It’s important for Veterans in our community who are in need of assistance to contact Endeavors immediately as these funds need to be dispersed within 90 days,” said City Representative Henry Rivera, District 7.

“I thank Endeavors for their continuous work throughout our community and hope that our Veterans will reach out to see if they’re eligible.”

If you or someone you know needs help with rental assistance, give Endeavors a call at (915) 308-9760 today and learn more at via their webpage.

Open Letter: What’s it like growing up in tough times Grandpa?

For you youngsters who believe “These are the times that try men’s souls” (Thos. Paine, 1776), I recall growing up during WWII when we faced similar tough times

At that time, the whole nation was solidly behind efforts to defeat the Axis Powers. 

Rationing was in effect, and we grew up without metal toys and made our own from wood.  We made model airplanes and guns with rubber bands from discarded inner tubes if we could find any. Bread came unsliced as steel for blades went to manufacture tanks and airplanes.

I recall scrap metal drives in which civilians deposited metal of all types at school yards…mattress frames, cast iron pot belly stoves (expensive collectibles today), and bicycles. Steel for cars? There was none because no cars were built for civilian use from 1941 to about 1947. 

Gasoline was rationed and available according to the letter of a sticker on windshields, based on priorities established by local rationing boards. No tires either. Got a flat? Fix it yourself using primitive vulcanizing tools. 

All pitched in. My mother and her group volunteered to roll bandages at Red Cross centers Life then in El Paso was not as severe as other parts of the country. Gasoline was available in Juarez at lower Mexican government-controlled prices.

Juarez is so far away from Mexican refineries that the Mexican government would buy gasoline refined in El Paso, transport it over the border at low prices for its citizens but all border denizens benefited.

I recall Dad going over on Saturdays to fill up and to load up on meats, fruits, etc., which were plentiful there. 

On the contrary, my late wife Vivian, who grew up in the Midwest recalled having one pair of rubber boots for three girls, no raincoats,  and really strict rationing of food. Her father was draft exempt due to childhood polio and worked in shipyards building LST’s.

The Mississippi was used as an assembly line with construction commencing up in Iowa and as ships were floated down the river, they would be completed by the time they reached New Orleans. She told me they might as well have been in the military. Once a project was completed the family would be moved to a different location and they lived in barracklike quarters. 

We lived on River Street, not far from the railroad tracks and spent time watching movement of troops and equipment on the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Locals would wave to the troops and many mothers and wives thinking of their own men would take water, magazine and baked goods to transiting soldiers. 

As tough as times might have been then, El Paso folks were generous. I recall gathering old clothes to donate to the Bundles for Britain project located in the Turney Mansion located on Montana and Brown streets. That mansion is now the International Museum of Art 

We grew up during World War II without role models as most young men from 18 to about 40 were in uniform. And yet we did a good job of growing up as to me, El Paso was the ideal place to in which to have lived through those years. 

So, chin up and endure through these tough times. Life could be worse. 

Antonio Martinez, El Paso Resident

(Editor’s note: this letter was originally a conversation between a grandfather and grandson, sparked by a question.)

Martinez grew in El Paso, graduated Texas A&M, is a Korean War Veteran and retired after working in Coca-Cola’s global marketing operations for over 30 years. He resides in Cumming, GA.

**

El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all views and viewpoints.  To have your opinion heard, review the guidelines here and the submit your letter to news@epheraldpost.com

Health professionals talk about anxiety surrounding the ‘return to normalcy’

HOUSTON – With COVID chaos slowly dying down, people may be heading back to work soon, which can be anxiety-provoking as they still try to protect themselves against the virus.

Baylor College of Medicine‘s Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor, dives into the anxieties of returning back to a normal schedule, and what normal may look like in the near future.

“First, we need to realize that ‘normal’ is something that changes with time. People think they will go back to a pre-COVID time, and that won’t happen for a long time…people need to understand the new normal,” Dr. Shah shared.

He outlines the stress people may feel going back to their normal schedules:

  • The biggest anxiety is about catching the virus. There is a higher chance to contract COVID-19 with more businesses opening and people returning to the workforce.
  • People have become accustomed to the lifestyle after working from home for at least one month. Many believe there is no difference in productivity between working from home or at the office.
  • Although some businesses will reopen, children will continue their schooling remotely. Many parents are worried about who will take care of their children when they go back to work.

“Every indication, every study and every stat shows that you don’t need to go back to normalcy right away – you can take gradual steps,” Shah said. “The advantage of doing this gradually is that it reduces anxiety. When you move rapidly, panic and anxiety are increased.”

Individuals will feel anxious about this change, whether or not they struggle with mental health issues. People who have preexisting mental health disorders are the first ones to be affected by any anxiety- or stress-provoking situation.

They can use telehealth to consult with their providers, and they may need to modify their medication doses and frequency.

According to Shah, the best way to maintain positivity is to limit your news intake and to focus on the facts of the virus. He also suggests eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, staying optimistic and avoiding or reducing drug and alcohol consumption.

“It’s easy to become anxious, but the best way to keep positive is to focus on facts. Evidence doesn’t lie. Facts don’t lie,” he said. “Remember, tomorrow is another day, and things are getting better. If you take as many precautions as recommended, the chance of contracting the virus is lower.”

Shah suggests gradually taking steps to move into normalcy to ease anxiety that employees may be experiencing about returning to work.

For example, bringing some essential people back into the workforce, or opening stores and restaurants for pick-up or takeout only. After about two to four weeks minimum, take the next step by starting to bring back regular aspects of work. If things move smoothly, then continue to take small steps. More steps do not translate to “normal.”

Companies can have 25 percent of their employees return every two weeks. Another option is to start with shorter hours and fewer people around the office, then gradually increase those numbers every few weeks. Workplaces can help ease employees’ anxiety by screening them upon entrance, as well as provide hand sanitizer often.

Although it’s easy to focus on the negative side of the COVID-19, the virus could provide optimism for flu season.

People have been diligent in hand washing and sanitizing and staying home if they feel ill. The outcome of this will not only minimize the spread of the virus, but has taught us to take the same precautions when flu season begins.

UMC, EPCH, TTP El Paso urge recovered El Pasoans to donate Convalescent Plasma to fight COVID19

University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), El Paso Children’s Hospital (EPCH) and Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso) urge any individuals who have fully recovered from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to donate convalescent plasma as a key weapon in the fight against the virus.

Vitalant, the nation’s largest independent blood provider, has launched a program to treat COVID-19 patients with blood plasma donated by people who have recovered from the disease. Known as “convalescent plasma,” this blood component contains antibodies that may give patients an extra boost to fight their illness. In coordination with local hospitals, Vitalant is working to identify willing donors who qualify for this type of donation.

“We are specifically looking for volunteers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have now recovered,” said Bradford Ray, director of Blood Management at UMC. “They have the antibodies that sick patients need to, hopefully, recover.”

Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and its physicians, residents, students, are also urging recovered COVID-19 patients to donate. “People who’ve recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to the disease in their blood which is called convalescent plasma,” said Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and chief of cardiovascular medicine at TTP El Paso.

“We hope that convalescent plasma can boost the ability of patients with severe COVID-19 to fight the virus. If you’ve had and recovered from COVID-19, consider donating blood through Vitalant (West: 544-5422; East: 849-7389) and help patients in our own community with severe COVID-19 infections.”

Currently, there are no vaccines or proven treatments for COVID-19 because the virus is so new. Although trials for a vaccine are underway, it is expected to be many months before one is approved.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified and approved convalescent plasma treatment as an “emergency investigational new drug.” It is currently the only antibody treatment available to COVID-19 patients and, as such, is a promising new tool.

“Whether individuals have already recovered or will recover from this virus in the future, we want those who are able to donate, to think about helping others fight this disease,” said Cindy Stout, CEO of EPCH.

This form of investigational treatment may provide the body more fight against COVID-19 by using antibodies that are active against the disease. With the help of our local communities, hospital partners and extensive research experience, Vitalant is gearing up to help patients fight this novel infectious disease with the help of willing recovered COVID-19 patients.

Vitalant is seeking convalescent plasma donors to help patients. Eligibility criteria are:

· Prior diagnosis of COVID-19, documented by a laboratory test

· Complete resolution of symptoms for at least 14 days

· Meet all other current FDA donor eligibility requirements to donate plasma

Those who meet that criteria and want to donate plasma are encouraged to apply through the Vitalant website. For more information, please call the numbers above or 866-CV-PLSMA (866-287-5762)

City announces new Public-Private Partnership for Regional Public Health Response to COVID19 Pandemic

Thursday morning, officials with the City of El Paso, in partnership with the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (MCA) and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF) announced the creation of the COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership.

Officials share that this new public-private partnership aims to improve communication and coordination between public sector officials, private sector partners and healthcare providers, and to strengthen the region’s collective capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Battelle, an international science and technology company that has been at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been contracted to work with partnership leaders and provide hands-on support and guidance.

“During these unprecedented times, our focus and priority remains the same: to ensure all our residents, especially our workers on the frontlines, remain safe and healthy, and that we put the right systems in place to stop the spread of coronavirus,” said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. “That is why we are drawing on the expertise of Battelle and working with leaders across the region in the public and private sectors to enhance our response to this historic public health crisis.”

The COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will bring together a coalition of leaders from local hospitals, community clinics, medical research centers, public health departments and foundations, and local businesses to support the ongoing public health efforts throughout the Paso del Norte region to slow and stop the spread of coronavirus, and treat those who have already been impacted by this virus.

The partnership, which is fully funded through private donations and at no cost to taxpayers, will also:

  • Provide critical resources to protect the public and our essential workers on the front lines of this battle — especially healthcare workers and employees of other essential businesses such as utilities, grocery stores, restaurants and the regional medical device manufacturing industry
  • Work with city and regional officials to coordinate care and enhance communication among the many healthcare and non-healthcare organizations stepping up to help
  • Tackle this pandemic as a region, creating a coordinated and seamless response between El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Las Cruces.

“As we face one of the most catastrophic health and economic crises in recent history, we are employing the public health principles of robust collaboration and coordination to keep our region safe,” said Emma Schwartz, MPH, President of the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation.

“Battelle is an institution that has taken a lead in helping the U.S. Federal government, as well as other communities and institutions respond to the pandemic. Through this partnership we will be able to closely monitor what’s working, where we have to make some adjustments, and how we can quickly respond to new challenges and get information and resources into the hands of our public health community. Enhanced coordination, communication and education are key to an effective response, and we are fortunate that this partnership will create a structure to coordinate the great assets and capabilities that we already have in this region, such as our government agencies, institutions of higher education, non-profits, associations, private companies, maker spaces, and so many others”

“We are excited to partner with the City of El Paso and these binational health foundations to enhance how this region is responding to the health and safety needs of this bi-national, tri-state region,” said Dr. Nicole Brennan, Director of Health Research at Battelle, who has been stationed in El Paso as part of this new partnership.

“Through the partnership, we are evaluating testing, personal protective equipment, triage and monitoring plans, hospital surge capacity planning, bi-national coordination and communications. One of our first orders of business is to make sure that we are able to get the right types of protective equipment into the hands of the nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, and others in the region who are at high-risk for infection.”

One unique feature of this new public-private partnership is the technical assistance and support that Battelle will be providing in responding to COVID-19.

Battelle has already worked with Ohio Department of Health in their response to coronavirus, are conducting in-vivo and in-vitro lab work for the Federal Government to test and evaluate COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, and recently received FDA approval of a new personal protective equipment (PPE) decontamination system.

At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers.

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries.

“In order for us to truly stabilize and control the spread of this virus, we must think and act regionally. What happens in Ciudad Juarez impacts El Paso and vice versa, so one of the goals of this partnership is to create a regional response to COVID-19,” said Tracy Yellen, Chief Executive Officer of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

“We want to maximize and deploy our resources across the region, and that requires all of us to act collectively in our response.”

Earlier this week, Mayor Margo also announced the creation of the Economic Task Force, a group of business and community leaders who will focus on developing strategies to safely reopen El Paso businesses and get residents back to work.

The COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will work in tandem with the Economic Task Force to mitigate the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.

The Economic Task Force is chaired by Rick Francis, chief executive officer of WestStar Bank, who was also appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve on the “Strike Force to Open Texas.” Kristina Mena, Ph.D., dean of the University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health El Paso Campus, is also serving as an expert adviser to Dr. John Zerwas, Executive Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Texas System, for his participation in the Strike Force.

Francis and Mena are members of the Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership. Collectively, their participation will ensure coordination between local and state efforts.

“This public-private partnership offers an opportunity to leverage best practices and re-affirms our community’s commitment to implement promising processes,” said El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “Although we are undergoing an incomparable period, the City is committed to staying focused on our obligation to our residents to promote a healthy, productive and safe community.”

Additional information about the COVID-19 Enhanced Regional Public Health Partnership will be made available by the City of El Paso in the coming days.

Mayor Margo contributes to Fund for First Responders

Just last week, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation established the EP COVID-19 Medical Equipment and Supply Fund last week to support the production and acquisition of needed protective equipment for front line workers.

Mayor Dee Margo was among the first to contribute personally to the new fund with a significant gift for PPE for the City of El Paso Police Department.

“Ensuring the safety of our community is the top priority of our police department at all times, and especially during this time,” says City of El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen. “We are grateful to Mayor Margo, for stepping up with this generous personal gift to ensure the health and safety of our police force as they work to serve our community.”

“I am blessed to be in the position to give back to our City that has given me so much,” said Mayor Dee Margo. “This personal donation of facial masks to the El Paso Police Department, through the PDN Foundation COVID-19 Medical Equipment and Supply Fund, will ensure their safety and wellness while responding to our public safety needs during our fight against COVID-19. We are a generous community driven by strength and unity.”

The EP COVID-19 Medical Equipment and Supply Fund has raised nearly $15,000 for protective equipment including an $8,400 gift from the Mayor, for the purchase of PPE for the El Paso Police Department from MFI International.

The balance of funds have been raised to support the production of face masks and face shields by a team of local 3D printers including the non-profit Fab Lab of El Paso. These local makers are using available 3D printing capabilities to fashion masks and shields for front line health care workers including physicians, nurses and staff at Centro de Salud Clinica La Fe.

Protective equipment – whether made locally or sourced by other providers – is an on-going need in our community.

For more information on how you can help, visit pdnfoundation.org.

Photo courtesy City of El Paso

Analysis: A digital divide with dire consequences for Texas

When Anderson County told residents not to assemble in groups with more than 10 people, officials got some pushback from churches. County Judge Robert Johnston said that was partly because residents wanted to meet on Sundays like they always have, but it was partly because they don’t have a way to meet online. “A lot of this county has no internet service,” he said.

Many jobs can’t be done from home. That often includes work that could be done remotely — if only the computers and networks were available. And it’s a particular problem in rural Texas, which lags far behind the rest of the state in access to the internet that many urban and suburban Texans take for granted.

It’s a problem in metropolitan areas of the state, too, but for a different reason: Computers and broadband are expensive.

At times, not having broadband is just an inconvenience. It would be nice to have Netflix or Hulu, maybe, but not essential. But when the people running your city or county tell you to stay home and work from there, or when the schools close and offer classes only online, internet access becomes a necessity.

Most of the state’s households — 94%, according to a preliminary report from Connected Nation Texas, a nonprofit focused on broadband access and adoption in the state — have access to at least a minimum level of broadband internet. That’s about a half-million households without access, according to Jennifer Harris, the organization’s state program director; about 440,000 of the Texas households without access to broadband are in rural Texas.

Access just means internet access for someone who wants it. The numbers on how many Texans actually have broadband are much lower. Only 65.6% of Texas households have adopted broadband, Harris said, citing numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The other 34.4% includes rural, suburban and urban Texans — anyone with access to broadband who doesn’t subscribe to it.

That leaves around one Texas household in three without a connection to the communications network that makes it possible to work from home — if your job even allows it — or to take part in online education being offered since the pandemic shuttered the state’s public schools. We’re 38th among the 50 states in broadband adoption.

Some of the solutions are creative. WesTex Connect, an internet service provider in Abilene, has set up free Wi-Fi hotspots in parking lots next to football stadiums, at the Abilene Convention Center, in Clyde, in Merkle, at the Farmer’s Co-Op Gin in Stamford and next to a lumberyard in Stamford. More are on the way, the company says, for anyone with schoolwork to do, bills to pay, whatever requires internet access.

It’s great that the company is doing that, and a shame that it’s needed. Commerce and public education depend on internet access right now. In normal times — remember normal times? — someone without internet or a computer at home can go to a public library to get online. That’s true in cities and in small towns.

At the moment, internet is a necessity, a requirement for anyone who wants to stick with public health advice to stay at home, and also needs to get an education or work from home — not to mention paying bills, ordering groceries, catching up with friends and seeking entertainment.

The digital divide is not a new story, but it’s newly pertinent at a moment when real interactions among people are limited and virtual interactions are vital.

Some of this is about access. There are places — the woods of East Texas and the empty expanses of West Texas — where internet and even cellphone service are unavailable. Most of those are rural.

More of it is about adoption in places where access to broadband is available but where, for a variety of reasons — high prices, personal preferences, whatever — Texans aren’t connected to the virtual network that makes it possible for a social culture to weather a sudden, shocking change in how we talk and interact.

The pandemic has moved Texas online for education, commerce, health care and entertainment. But relying on that broadband network to keep us stitched together while we stay at home to keep the new coronavirus at bay leaves about a third of the state’s households at an unsustainable social distance.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here. And if you’d like to listen to the column, just click on the play button below.

 

EPAA: COVID19-affected residents to talk with Property Managers on Rent Payments before April 1st

On Monday afternoon, the El Paso Apartment Association (EPAA) released a statement, encouraging all residents who are in financial distress to reach out to work with their community managers prior to April 1.

“To prevent more problems for themselves later, apartment residents need to communicate with their property manager before they miss paying their rent,” said Demetrio Jimenez, Chairperson of the EPAA COVID-19 Task Force.

Many apartment communities already have created plans on how to work with their residents in this unprecedented crisis. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for this situation and each apartment owner must decide what they are able to do, and how, to help their impacted residents. The best strategy is for managers and residents to work together to find the best solution under the circumstances. Providing a secure home for all residents is the primary goal.”

The El Paso Apartment Association is an affiliate of the Texas Apartment Association, which is encouraging members to waive late fees and consider options like payment plans, as possible, for residents affected by COVID-19.

“The apartment industry is on the frontlines of defence against COVID-19 by providing one of life’s most essential needs—shelter,” Jimenez said. “With Stay Home policies, property managers now are on the front lines supporting Texas rental residents. Though unsung and unrecognized for heroic efforts they are making with every resident now at home, apartment building managers, maintenance staff and service vendors, like others providing essential services, continue to go to work each day in spite of any risk to their own health,” he said. “The El Paso Apartment Association is grateful for the efforts of these hard-working individuals who are taking care of over 48,000 El Paso households during this challenging time.”

Jimenez noted that COVID-19 is more than just a health crisis. “While evictions for non-payment of rent are on hold due to the Texas Supreme Court’s order, which TAA helped create, the consequences of drastically reduced rental income are severe,” he said.

“Despite people’s false belief that all apartment owners have infinite financial resources, the truth is many apartment owners are at great financial risk now. They must continue to pay the mortgage to prevent eventually losing their credit or their properties, make employee payroll, and pay utilities, insurance, taxes and all other expenses of maintaining apartment units.

“We know some of our residents have been greatly affected by coronavirus and the resulting measures to ‘flatten the curve,'” he continued. “We want to work with our residents and look for ways to help they remain in their homes. At the same time, on-time rent payments are crucial to property owners being able to provide homes to renters. While Congress has taken some important actions, it’s unknown at this time how quickly any relief will come for renters, and not all the relief offered to property owners applies to all rental property owners—so there’s a lot of uncertainty. Everyone is doing their best to learn how they will be affected,” Jimenez said

The state’s hold on evictions does not mean freedom from the obligation to pay rent on time. Therefore, anyone who can pay rent, should pay rent to protect their credit and prevent eventual eviction for not meeting lease terms.

At the same time, although lease contracts remain in effect, EPAA and its members are committed to assisting residents who are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19.

EPAA also encourages all renters to review the many resources compiled by the Texas Apartment Association, available via this link.

“This is a difficult time for renters, apartment owners, managers and employees alike,” he said. “But if we work together and maintain open lines of communication, then we are much more likely to come out of this difficult time intact, so we can all return to our lives.” 

Coronavirus test results in Texas are taking up to 10 days

At first Chris Woodruff thought it was a routine asthma attack. But when the North Texas businessman started running a fever, he moved out of the house and eventually got tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Last week, he got his results back — positive — and went on “extreme” lockdown as doctors instructed.

But it took 10 days to get the results.

Woodruff, now recovering, is far from alone. Though Texas has dramatically increased its testing capacity, many who have been tested are waiting days on end for the results, and sometimes a week or more, according to interviews with patients and healthcare professionals. Those delays, along with the relatively low number of tests conducted so far, mean no one really knows the true picture of the coronavirus spread in Texas, and patients aren’t getting the timely information they need to respond accordingly, patients and experts say.

In addition, Texans might not take isolating themselves seriously — or their friends and family might not take extreme precautions — until they have confirmation of a positive case.

“As long as there are these lags with testing, we’re not going to know the actual numbers, and I’m worried that there’s a tendency to underestimate the severity of the epidemic — pandemic at this point,” said Dr. Shelley Payne, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease.

Testing is done by healthcare facilities, commercial and public laboratories, making it difficult to know how common cases like Woodruff’s are. State authorities say the time it takes to get results depends on which lab a patient’s test went to, and, for private laboratories, where they’re located.

As tests have surged nationally, federal officials have acknowledged possible shortages of materials like swabs and reagents that healthcare providers and technicians require. Even the private labs that process a majority of Texas cases have suggested there may be delays triggered by the surge in demand.

“We cannot accommodate everyone who wants testing and meet tight turnaround time expectations,” said Quest Diagnostics, a commercial lab behemoth, in an online statement. The company’s ability to “rapidly” expand capacity is being outpaced by demand, the statement said, and supplies for COVID-19 testing are a “global industry- and government-wide issue.”

Testing for the novel coronavirus had a botched rollout that included problems with test kits and the U.S. declining to use an existing World Health Organization test. Private labs were initially side-lined, and hard-hit states like New York and California were a bigger priority than Texas, state officials say.

The number of tests in Texas has leapt to at least 25,260 as of Saturday, a ten-fold increase from the week before, and a newly authorized test could soon deliver test results in as little as five minutes.

State authorities downplayed the effect test results could have on the state’s preparedness and response to the outbreak.

Texas currently lags some 35 other states in the number of tests it’s recorded relative to its population of 29 million, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the COVID Tracking Project. New York, with 19.5 million people, had recorded 122,104 tests as of Friday.

In mid-March, when Woodruff was tested in Granbury, tests were scarcer in Texas than they are now. In fact, that same day the Texas governor announced, amid rising protests over a lack of testing capacity, that Texas would see an exponential increase.

Woodruff had been on an extended road trip for work — in Las Vegas and Hawaii — and returned to Texas on March 1. He started feeling sick about a week later.

Though he had most of the classic COVID-19 symptoms — fever, chills, shortness of breath, a dry cough — Woodruff thought it was probably the flu. Still, he felt bad enough to go to an emergency clinic on March 16. When his flu test came back negative, he was instructed to go immediately to a brand new drive-thru testing site nearby.

They told him he was one of the first people in his small North Texas county to get the test, Woodruff said. It wasn’t until March 26, 10 days later, that he found out he had COVID-19 after all. Woodruff was already staying away from his family and avoiding other people, but he was still driving and visiting his ranch.

“Was it as extreme as I am today? No, because I didn’t know,” Woodruff said. “It would be great to get (the results) sooner. Absolutely. Everybody would admit to that.”

His wife, Annette, said they figured he had come down with the flu — which their kids had already experienced — and they weren’t all that concerned.

“But if we’d have known that it was corona, we probably would have been a lot more careful around him before the fact,” she said.

Chris Woodruff applauded public health authorities in Texas and Washington for their response to the quickly spreading disease, and said he hopes people will panic less after learning how he contracted and then overcame COVID-19. He said most Texans are recovering, but people aren’t necessarily getting that message.

“I went through it. Yeah, I had a tough time breathing. Yes, I had a fever for eight days, 10 days. I went through it and apparently I’m going to be fine, but where’s my number? I want to see (the) number … of us that are getting through it. That’s the hope that people need to understand and see.”

While confirmed cases like Woodruff’s are added to the total number of Texans who have come down with COVID-19, the long lag time means that the data disseminated to healthcare providers, government leaders and the general public is out of date.

That not only makes it difficult for epidemiologists combating the disease to quickly access the accurate information they need to understand how the virus is spreading, but also can complicate the job of medical professionals across the healthcare system.

It’s “critically important for the treating physician to be able to know what’s going on in that patient that is laying down in a hospital bed in front of him or her, and to know it as quickly as possible so that they can make the needed changes in therapy or attention or focus and get them better,” said Dennis Perrotta, a retired state epidemiologist.

Case in point: a 17-year-old cancer patient who needs chemotherapy to combat aggressive bone cancer but was told to wait for the results of his COVID-19 test. Nine days later, he was still waiting, according to NBC News.

State officials and lab representatives say they are continually adding testing capacity.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that Texas is “administering every test that we get,” and was on a “very good trajectory in the increase of the number of people we are testing and I expect that increase to continue.”

In the meantime, Health Services Department spokesperson Lara Anton said test results won’t determine the state’s or doctors’ ability to respond to COVID-19.

“While test results are important for overall surveillance, they don’t have a significant effect on preparedness and response activities or the medical treatment of individual patients,” Anton said.

The rapid ramp-up in testing and a shortage in needed supplies have been blamed for testing backlogs across the country.

“It takes time to gear up for” testing on this scale, said Payne, the UT infectious disease expert. “I think that there was a sense that we weren’t at such a high risk when the first cases appeared in the U.S., and we didn’t start [to prepare for wide scale testing] at the time. So now, everyone is scrambling to get all of the reagents, the tools that are needed, and to make sure people have the proper protective equipment” when testing.

Neither LabCorp nor the state said they are not running short on supplies. The Texas lab has ordered swabs and reagents, received “partial shipments,” and has enough supplies to test for a few weeks,” Anton said.

She did not provide a specific timeframe in which test results are returned. Texas’ 10 public health labs can together analyze close to 700 “specimens” a day, Anton said, and prioritize high-need patients and those who “will tell us the most from a public health perspective about what’s going on with the outbreak in Texas.” That includes people who have a doctor’s order, COVID-19-like symptoms, and either require hospitalization, are at high-risk of serious illness or have traveled from a country rampant with the virus.

Quest pegged its test turnaround time at 4-5 days on average, but said it can vary across the country, ranging from “a day or two” to “about a week from specimen pickup” elsewhere.

A LabCorp spokesperson said patients receive their test results in 4-5 days, on average, after the “specimen” is picked up for testing. The time frame can “vary based on demand,” depending on how long it takes to transport the sample to LabCorp’s test facilities and the order in which patients are prioritized, said spokesperson Mike Geller.

Amy Sanders, a UT-Austin associate professor, said she was tested on Monday, after running a low-grade fever for days, receiving negative flu tests and returning “curiosities” with her vital signs.

A healthcare provider outfitted with a plastic face shield administered the test, an uncomfortable swab that scraped the inside of her nose, and then told her, “the labs that can process these tests are backed up. So it will likely be 7-10 days before we have a test result for you.”

Sanders was self-isolating at home and still waiting as of late this week.

“The governor made lots of promises a week ago about ramping up testing, and ramping up testing is important,” she said, “but if it takes someone seven to 10 days to get results, we’re never going to have an accurate picture.”

Authors: SHANNON NAJMABADI AND JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Quest Diagnostics have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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