EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- El Paso County shattered a pandemic record Thursday as health officials announced 1,161 new Covid-19 cases and four coronavirus-related deaths, with one of those victims in her 40s.
The county of El Paso over the past 24 hours has recorded more new coronavirus cases than 30 states in the nation, according to an ABC-7 examination of case data published by the New York Times.
The number of active cases increased to 9,406, which is a also an all-time pandemic high and makes 16 days in row of record-setting infection counts.
These record-breaking numbers prompted city and health leaders to hold a briefing Thursday afternoon, at which time Mayor Dee Margo asked all El Pasoans to "stay home" for two weeks and only go out when absolutely essential. He said any order for a full city shutdown would need to come from the governor, who he has been in contact with.
With data showing many El Pasoans are getting infected at stores and restaurants, officials said compliance task forces would be visiting businesses to ensure Covid-19 guidelines are being followed; the task force can issue citations to violators.
Margo also announced the use of city parks would be restricted to walking trails only; he said no athletic league or tournament play of any kind would now be allowed in parks - which had become a gathering spot for people.
The latest fatalities reported Thursday due to the virus were all women, one each in their 40s, 60s, 70s and 90s. Officials predicted the death toll would grow over the next few weeks because hospitals are overflowing right now with Covid patients.
"Our hospitals are hitting capacity," Margo said, adding that the bulk of 911 medical calls currently being handled the city's firefighters also involve Covid-19.
Hospitalizations dipped slightly Thursday from 578 to 571. However, the number of intensive care unit patients increased to 159, an all-time high.
The Texas Department of State Health Services told ABC-7 on Thursday that it had already deployed 581 doctors, nurses and respiratory personnel to help at El Paso hospitals and were sending another 150 by the weekend.
"Today’s spike is part of an overall increase in cases seen over the last month due in part to ongoing community spread," Margo said, as officials outlined four key factors said to be driving the rapid rise of infections locally:
· Individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 are not following proper health protocol and are not isolating;
· Residents are continuing to host or attend house parties, social gatherings or family gatherings;
· Residents are not wearing face masks while out in public or around people that do not live in the same household;
· Individuals who have tested positive are not being cooperative with Contact Tracers by failing to answer their calls, provide accurate information, or do not adhere to their recommendations.
Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the City/County Health Authority, said police officers were being utilized to deliver quarantine orders to those individuals known to be infected but failing to self-isolate.
Health experts noted their data showed infections and spread of the virus are particularly prevalent in 20 and 30 year olds, which is the age bracket cited as the biggest offenders of not following safety guidelines while out in public.
Since the start of the pandemic, El Paso has recorded 36,025 confirmed virus cases, with 25,875 reported recoveries - although doctors note that some recovered persons may still experience long-term health issues from having been infected.
For a complete look at El Paso's Covid-19 data, click here.