EL PASO, Texas -- The official numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in El Paso isn't a complete picture of the impact the virus is having in our area, local health officials confirm to ABC-7.
Mexican nationals and non-El Paso residents who have died in El Paso hospitals are not being included in the daily pandemic updates provided to the public by the City of El Paso.
This first came to light on May 11, when El Paso County Commissioners received updated information on Covid-19 activity in the Borderland.
That's when Commissioner Vince Perez, (D-Precinct 3), told Emergency Management Coordinator Jorge Rodriguez he had learned that week that officials were not reporting which cases are coming from elsewhere, including Mexico.
"Is that not a concern -- the folks coming over from Mexico or the number of cases that we're receiving from Mexico -- and how is that even being reported if someone comes over from Mexico if they are not being asked?" Perez said during the virtual meeting.
"Whichever hospital they end up in, if that person is either a suspected Covid patient and they are subsequently tested, then that information will be shared with our local health department since they were tested within our hospital system," Rodriguez responded.
But cases involving Mexican citizens or Americans not from El Paso aren't included in El Paso numbers even if they are tested and treated here.
An open records request by ABC-7 shows from March 27 to June 5, 97 non-El Pasoans tested positive while in El Paso, and four died of Covid-19 in El Paso hospitals.
Half the deaths and positive cases, or 48, were residents from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Thirty-nine New Mexicans tested positive and two died.
Four Texas residents and six from outside the region tested positive.
The non-resident data is now being posted on the El Paso Covid-19 case report website.
According to information released by health officials on June 5, El Paso officially had 90 deaths and 3,213 cases.
Combining the non-resident deaths and cases to El Paso's totals shows the non-residents make up 4 percent of the deaths and 2.9 percent of the caseload, respectively.
El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza told ABC-7 that the numbers contradict the belief that Mexican citizens are being treated in El Paso hospitals, adding, "Since non-U.S. citizens are not able to cross the border for non-essential business, the volume of medical emergencies has dramatically decreased."
As for why the non-resident data isn't reported with the daily update, Dr. Ocaranza said like other entities across the state, it is common practice to forward that information to the primary place of residence for investigation purposes.