The number of people hospitalized in El Paso for COVID-19 neared 900 on Tuesday as the number of new infections continued to jump.
COVID-19 testing sites remained open during a rare snow before Halloween fell in El Paso, the earliest recorded measurable snowfall at this time of year. The previous record was a snowfall on Oct. 28, 1980.
The local health care system continued to hustle to find beds for new patients with the help of state and federal medical resources.
As of Tuesday morning, there were a record total of 892 people hospitalized with COVID-19, an addition of 39 patients since the day before, according to city-county public health data.
El Paso County reported 1,390 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, 55 additional cases from delayed state numbers and four more deaths. A total of 580 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic’s arrival in March.
Virus infection spikes also are occurring in neighboring Las Cruces and Juárez, which on Tuesday tallied an additional 25 deaths.
Coronavirus cases have surged across the state of Chihuahua with the largest flare in Juárez.
On Tuesday, Chihuahua public health authorities reported that a general hospital in Juárez and two hospitals in Chihuahua City were at 100% capacity and that seven other hospitals in the state had surpassed 80% capacity.
Nearly 6,500 cases last week
The El Paso County outbreak is larger than previously believed, with data amended with delayed case numbers showing a staggering 6,499 new infections last week.
There were more than 4,170 cases the week of Oct. 11-17 and just over 3,000 cases the week of Oct. 4-10, according to updated data released Tuesday.
A tent hospital in a parking lot behind University Medical Center of El Paso is part of mobile medical units and teams sent to the city. A 50-bed auxiliary hospital will be set up in the civic center. And some patients are being flown to hospitals in other Texas cities to help alleviate some of the strain at El Paso hospitals.
San Antonio hospitals on Monday began receiving intensive-care unit patients flown from El Paso, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, had 151 new COVID-19 cases reported Monday.
The El Paso COVID-19 Task Force on Monday reported that the more than 270 contact tracers working for the city highlighted “problem areas” linked to community spread, including visiting stores, eating at restaurants and traveling to Mexico.
El Paso residents should stay home for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus, city, county and health leaders said. Indoor and outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people from different households are banned.
Fans will not be allowed at the University of Texas at El Paso football game against North Texas on Saturday at Sun Bowl Stadium, university President Heather Wilson said Tuesday.
City and health leaders have partially blamed young adults attending parties, ignoring safety measures and going to bars-turned-restaurants for helping spread the virus.
Fort Bliss implements curfew
Fort Bliss has implemented a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to align with the nightly curfew in El Paso County, military officials said.
The curfew is among new guidelines intended to battle the spread of COVID-19 that were issued Monday by Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, commanding general of Fort Bliss and the 1st Armored Division.
Fort Bliss is encouraging teleworking from home when possible, has set visitor restrictions and its service members are only allowed to get food for pick up or delivery off post.
“Unfortunately, we continue to see steep increases in active cases on Fort Bliss. To help slow the spread of COVID-19 within the Fort Bliss Community, we must take aggressive (steps) now,” an Army post news release stated Monday night.
The actual number of current COVID-19 cases at Fort Bliss was not revealed.
The disclosure of infection numbers at individual military installations was stopped early in the U.S. pandemic in March on orders from the Pentagon citing operational security.
To help reduce pressure on local hospitals, William Beaumont Army Medical Center has begun accepting Department of Defense and Veterans Administration patients, including those with COVID-19, who are transferred from El Paso hospitals, officials said.
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