EL PASO, Texas -- The number of active coronavirus cases in El Paso County exceeded 11,000 on Sunday morning for yet another all-time high, with hospitalizations also setting a new record as a result of a recent upswing of 300% in Covid-19 patients.
There were three added deaths reported Sunday to raise the pandemic's death toll to 575. The latest victims were two men - one in his 40s and the other in his 80s, along with a woman in her 80s.
Officials reported 517 new cases Sunday morning, but indicated that "additional cases are expected to be added" with health department staff still examining data received late Saturday night from 25,000 tests administered over a three-day stretch leading into the weekend.
There were 11,321 active infections as of Sunday, prompting El Paso officials to once again urge residents to "stay home," except for essential activities, to reduce the community spread. That active figure amounts to 29% of the 39,326 total virus cases during the entire pandemic.
Hospitalizations reached 786 patients on Sunday (with 177 in ICUs and 117 on ventilators), up from 259 in less than three weeks—a 300% increase. The huge spike has strained hospital capacity, leading to an announcement Sunday that the El Paso Convention Center will be converted into a makeshift hospital to provide up to 100 extra beds.
In addition, there's been a state request made to use the old William Beaumont Army hospital to house non-Covid patients - and a plan put into place by local hospitals to airlift some patients to hospitals elsewhere in the state due to the lack of bed space.
“With the surge of hospitalizations, we need the public to understand the strain our local health services and hospitals are currently going through,” said El Paso's Public Health Director Angela Mora. “Moreover, with fewer hospital beds available due to the spike in Covid-19 patients seeking medical attention, this could adversely affect healthcare services for persons with everyday non-Covid medical conditions and medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes and vehicular accidents.”
Mora continued, "If we continue on this trend, we risk detrimental effects to our entire healthcare system. For the sake of those hospitalized and the frontline healthcare workers working tirelessly each day to care for them, we ask you to please stay home for two weeks and eliminate your interactions with those outside your household until we can flatten the curve.”
El Paso officials on Sunday warned that the city and county were now aggressively enforcing requirements to wear face masks and not have gatherings either at home or in public exceeding ten people. Authorities also reiterated they were cracking down on businesses failing to enforce social distancing guidelines and other safety practices.
"Enforcement will be applied to the fullest as well as fines issued to those who do not follow local health orders," said a statement issued Sunday by the city government, which directed residents to report any Covid-19 violations to the El Paso Police non-emergency line at 915-832-4400.
Complete health department Covid-19 data as well as testing information and resources can be found at epstrong.org.