EL PASO, Texas — In just four days time, El Paso has posted roughly 1,000 additional positive test results of county residents for coronavirus, according to newly released data by local health officials.
It comes while the county also set a record Saturday for the deadliest week recorded so far during the pandemic, with officials acknowledging there are over a hundred additional possible Covid deaths under investigation.
The El Paso Department of Public Health on Saturday morning reported 91 new cases of Covd-19 along with what it called 356 "delayed testing results" provided by the state, which has managed numerous testing sites across El Paso at the city's request.
This marked the second time this week where significant positive case numbers were retroactively reported by local health leaders — drawing both questions and criticism as some of the "delayed" cases are said to be as much as seven weeks old.
As a result, El Paso's total case count as of Saturday surpassed 18,000. It had just topped 17,000 on Wednesday.
The health department also reported three new virus-related deaths on Saturday to raise El Paso County's death toll to 357. The latest victims were a man in his 60s with no underlying health conditions, along with two women — one in her 70s and the other in her 80s.
That took the death tally for the week to 66, making it the deadliest reported week on record in El Paso — easily surpassing the previous record of 48 deaths which was set two weeks ago. Health leaders have reported daily death increases for nearly a month now — since July 19.
In addition, the health department noted for the first time Saturday that there were 108 more deaths still under investigation by the medical examiner and other officials that may also be the result of Covid-19.
Of Saturday's cumulative total of 18,079 positive cases, officials said 13,296 — about 74 percent — had recovered. Experts indicate, however, that some recovered persons may experience ongoing health issues, particularly involving the heart or lungs, as a result of having had Covid disease.
That means 4,426 cases currently involve active infections among El Pasoans, which is also a record number of active cases since the virus outbreak began months ago.
Hospitalizations did drop again on Saturday to 161 patients, down 22 from the prior day and a decline of 33 over a two-day period. It's the lowest hospitalization rate in El Paso since June 30.
However, the number of those hospitalized in intensive care remained the same at 56, while ventilator usage dropped by four patients to 33.
After a week filled with delayed case reporting stretching back weeks, El Paso Matters CEO Bob Moore took local officials to task for what he called the "unreliable data" being collected and given to the public, labeling it "dangerous."
"These data failures have tremendous potential consequences. The El Paso Department of Public Health has under-reported the impact of a pandemic for several weeks," he wrote in an op-ed Saturday. "Families, businesses and other governments — including schools — are relying on that data to make potential life and death decisions."
For a complete look at El Paso's Covid-19 data provided by the health department, click here.