EL PASO, Texas -- A massive increase in new confirmed cases of the coronavirus was reported by El Paso health leaders Saturday as they implored that "the number of positive cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise by record numbers" without immediate efforts by El Pasoans to reduce virus spread.
There were 546 additional Covid-19 infections recorded Saturday morning, which the El Paso Department of Public Health noted was "the largest spike the community has seen to date." Throughout the week, El Paso County has routinely reported more daily virus cases than the entire neighboring state of New Mexico, which is also experiencing record new cases and whose governor has expressed severe concern about "uncontrollable spread" there.
El Paso's pandemic's death toll was just one higher than the number of Saturday's new cases, reaching 547 with the two latest deaths to be reported -- a man in his 50s and a woman in her 60s.
In just two days, El Paso County has posted nearly 1,000 added infections, and over 2,500 for the week, with the amount of active cases now standing at 5,534 -- yet another high mark, with that record being smashed on almost a daily basis.
City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza and local health department head Angela Mora acknowledged that their public appeals may sound like "begging," but said if health mandates aren't followed it will "lead to more deaths and families left without a loved one."
Hospitalizations are also rising sharply, with the number of patients reaching 236 on Saturday with 72 of those listed in intensive care. El Paso hasn't seen this many people hospitalized since early August.
Officials said data indicated the current virus spike was largely the result of community spread due to what they attributed as "Covid fatigue," particularly among those El Pasoans in their 20s and 30s who are showing significantly increasing rates of infection.
"These two age groups appear to have contracted the virus while out in public and not taking the proper safety precautions to include practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing with soap and water and wearing a face covering," said a statement from the health leaders, who again pointed out that the virus can and is being spread by people who show no symptoms and may not even know they are infected.
Mora also had a warning for those who fail to follow the health departments directives to self-quarantine after testing positive for the virus, or coming into close contact with someone diagnosed with it.
"Non-adherence to isolation and quarantine orders will lead to drastic measures such as issuance of court-ordered restrictions to limit an individual’s movement," said Mora.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mora had said health department workers engaged in contact-tracing efforts were being ignored and disregarded when they attempt to deliver isolation instructions, so much so that she threatened to send police to the door of those who are uncooperative.
Complete health department data on Covid-19 in El Paso can be accessed at epstrong.org.