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El Paso leaders cautiously optimistic about virus, but health dept. won’t shorten quarantines

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and County Judge Ricardo Samniego expressed cautious optimism amid declining virus cases and hospitalizations during a Thursday afternoon briefing at City Hall on the Covid-19 situation locally.

However, the two men along with health officials cautioned that we won't know the potential impact of Thanksgiving gatherings for at least another week.

"Traditionally the holidays will trigger a spike. And that's what we're gonna be seeing, a rise in the cases. Hopefully not, but we might start seeing a rise in the cases by this weekend or early next week," said El Paso City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza.

Thursday's news conference marked the first joint appearance together by the mayor and judge since a fallout over the judge's shutdown order last month that was first upheld by the courts only to later be reversed on appeal.

The mayor downplayed his public disagreement with the judge over the shutdown and maintained the two leaders are currently operating on the same page.

"Don't distort. The issues we had before were questions on conflict related to the order, which had to be sorted out legally," Margo said.

Added Samaniego: "I think it's very clear that unity brings us together. I think El Paso has always been unified. The important part is we're both trying to do the best that we can with the things that we have at our hands. To me, because I supersede the mayor, I have a lot of pressure of trying to do the best that I can from a legal perspective."

The news conference came as the El Paso Department of Public Health announced that it wouldn't adopt new U.S. Centers for Disease Control quarantine alternatives due to the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations locally.

In the new guidance, the CDC said people could leave quarantine without taking a test if they do not develop any symptoms 10 days after being exposed to someone else with the virus, or after seven days with a negative test result and no symptoms.

"The CDC’s publication states local public health authorities determine and establish quarantine options for their local jurisdictions based on current situations. Taking all the available data and information into account, the Department of Public Health will continue requiring individuals exposed to Covid-19 to quarantine for 14 days," said public health director Angela Mora.

Earlier Thursday, El Paso recorded its third deadliest day of the pandemic with 27 additional victims added to the coronavirus fatality tally, which has now reached 968. Almost half those deaths have come since the beginning of November.

That death toll is expected to continue to grow as there are also 603 deaths currently under investigation.

Health leaders also acknowledged that the state of Texas actually shows a higher death count for El Paso than the local tally. The state lists a total of 1,142 Sun City virus fatalities as of Thursday.

"The state is reporting the number of Covid-19 related deaths just by information from death certificates," Ocaranza explained. "But we are a lot more thorough in that we request the medical records from the attending physician... It takes some time before we receive those. So it will lag from the time of death until we confirm those deaths."

You can watch the entire Covid-19 briefing from City Hall in the video player below.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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Saul Saenz

Saul Saenz co-anchors Good Morning El Paso.


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