(Editor's note: Updated with comment from the city of El Paso's public heath authority)
EL PASO, Texas -- More than 20 patients and staff at the El Paso Psychiatric Center are now being treated for novel coronavirus at the facility by the center's health care professionals, and the remaining staff who are either not sick or are asymptomatic are continuing to report for work while awaiting testing.
That's according to a source familiar with the situation at the psychiatric center who agreed to speak to ABC-7 on Saturday on condition of anonymity.
The number of patients, according to the source, is far more than the 11 patients cited by the Public Health Department during a news conference Thursday. Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city/county public health authority, had confirmed that nearly a dozen patients were all from one health care facility, but he declined to identify which one.
Bob Moore of El Paso Matters revealed that the center in question was the El Paso Psychiatric Center.
The source told ABC-7 Saturday that employees who felt sick earlier this week were told by their employer to get tested for Covid-19, but the city's public health department allegedly declined to test the employees because they were not running a fever - despite the employees working in a facility where multiple people have allegedly tested positive for the virus.
ABC-7 reached out to the city of El Paso for comment Saturday. City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said no one is turned away from getting a test "if they meet the criteria." Options to get tested include going an individual's medical provider and having that sample submitted to a private lab, or going to a drive-thru facility. Dr. Ocaranza said those who will be tested at a drive-thru are healthcare workers and first responders who are symptomatic, or those who have a referral from a physician.
The El Paso Psychiatric Center, which is operated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, provides in-patient services for up to 74 adults, according to the Legislative Budget Board.
Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Christine Mann has previously said the agency cannot legally release personal health information involving staff and patients. But she did talk generally about how the agency is responding to virus infections in its facilities.
“In any facility in which a patient tests positive for Covid-19, all staff wear face masks. Additionally, we’re continuing to educate and train staff on infection control procedures and the proper use of (personal protective equipment). Staff working with Covid-19 positive patients are dedicated to treating only those patients, using the appropriate personal protective equipment and are following all CDC guidelines to protect their safety and prevent spread,” Mann told El Paso Matters on Friday.