EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso's County's top doctor declared Sunday morning that the coronavirus is "spreading like wildfire" as he announced record-setting daily numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and patients listed in intensive care.
Those skyrocketing numbers blamed on "community spread" included 411 new cases, the first time El Paso has topped the 400 mark. Sunday also became the fifth day in a row of record daily case counts, with Wednesday through Saturday each topping 350 daily.
Total infections so far during the pandemic grew to over 9,500 along with a whopping 26 additional patients in local hospitals on Sunday and one more virus-related death.
The latest fatality was a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, bringing the total number of deaths among El Pasoans to 151.
In addition to the 9,510 total infections as of Sunday, hospitalizations rose to 277 currently, with 91 patients in ICUs and over a third of those (34) on ventilators.
The rise in hospitalizations forced the Las Palmas Del Sol Emergency Center to begin diverting patients over the weekend, with a University Medical Center spokesman adding: "This is a surge that is affecting all hospitals."
According to state of Texas data as of Saturday, El Paso only had 32 remaining ICU beds that weren't occupied. El Paso's Sunday morning numbers report suggested that ICU bed count would be further reduced by seven.
El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said the "alarming spike in cases is unfortunately due to community spread."
“This virus is spreading like a wildfire in our community," he explained in an urgent tone, "and the only way to slow the spread is for everybody to take this seriously and stay home."
Dr. Ocaranza implored those who must go out to wear face masks as required by state and local orders, as well as practice social distancing and engage in frequent hand washing.
Sunday's spike in cases began a new week that followed a record-setting one in which 2,146 new infections were recorded, shattering the previous record by a third.
"The number of cases in El Paso County has doubled in three weeks and at the current growth trend will double again — adding more than 9,000 more new cases — in 18 days," observed Bob Moore of El Paso Matters, who tracks the weekly data and forecasts trends with an elaborate set of charts and graphs.
While Moore noted that "all age groups have seen shocking increases in Covid-19 case numbers in the past three weeks," he indicated that younger El Pasoans in their 20s and 30s currently represent about half of all new infections.