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National Guard at El Paso nursing facility tied to potential virus spike as city releases case cluster data

mountain view national guard
Bob Moore/El Paso Matters
Texas National Guard soldiers with disinfecting equipment outside Mountain View Health and Rehabilitation.

EL PASO, Texas — Texas National Guard soldiers were present Sunday at a nursing home where El Paso's latest spike in coronavirus cases may be concentrated, according to El Paso Matters.

A surge in Covid-19 cases in west-central El Paso’s 79902 Zip code appears as though it could be clustered at the Mountain View Health and Rehabilitation nursing facility at 1600 Murchison.

Guard soldiers with disinfecting equipment were in the facility’s parking lot Sunday afternoon. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that the Guard would be used to disinfect nursing homes with Covid-19 cases.

Earlier this month, Mountain View's management had acknowledged to ABC-7 that, “We have had persons associated with our facility test positive for Covid-19." It did not, however, specify how many confirmed cases there were.

"We are working closely with the local heath authority to determine the full spread of the outbreak,” Mountain View had said at that time.

The number of confirmed cases in the Zip code where Mountain View is located exploded from 18 on May 13 to 114 on Sunday. El Paso health officials reported 71 new cases in the 79902 Zip code between Friday and Sunday, accounting for 24% of all new cases in the county those days.

El Paso officials haven’t responded to questions on whether the surge of new cases are spread throughout the Zip code or clustered in a few areas.

They issued a statement Sunday afternoon that 216 virus cases had been reported at 21 elder-care facilities. The statement came in response to a formal request made by ABC-7 seeking to obtain "cluster" information.

The city has refused to name facilities, citing longstanding policy, though other jurisdictions routinely identify facilities with clusters of cases.

The city identified ten “clusters” in the statement, defining these clusters listed below as a collection of virus cases in the same area at the same time. (See further data at the bottom of this article.)

  •   Care facilities for the elderly (21 facilities, 216 cases)
  •      General businesses (40 facilities, 187 cases)
  •      Healthcare facilities (26 facilities, 180 cases)
  •      Correctional-Detention facilities (six facilities, 102 cases)
  •      Government (13 facilities, 52 cases)
  •      Call centers (five facilities, 33 cases)
  •      Big Box stores (six facilities, 15 cases)
  •      Construction (four facilities, 12 cases)
  •      Schools (four facilities, 12 cases)
  •      Shelters (one facility, four cases)

The clusters identified Sunday accounted for 813 virus cases, about a third of the more than 2,300 cases in El Paso county.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the city-county health authority, said the clusters were identified with the help of contact tracers, who gather information on who people with Covid-19 may have been exposed to while they were ill.

“When one (cluster) is found, in many ways is like setting off an alarm. Once the alarm goes off, you must respond quickly because every moment wasted will allow the virus to spread further. The faster the infected individuals are identified and isolated, the better chance we have to reduce and control the spread,” Ocaranza said. 

The 79902 Zip code now has the second-highest infection rate in El Paso County, with 49 cases per 10,000 residents as of this weekend. The highest infection rate continues to be the 79853 Zip code around Tornillo, with about 63 cases per 10,000 residents.

Mountain View Health and Rehabilitation didn't immediately respond to a request by El Paso Matters for comment on Sunday.

More than 3,000 nursing home residents across Texas have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released by the state last weekend.

Those 3,000 cases represent about 4% of the estimated number of Texans living in nursing homes, the Houston Chronicle has reported.

Below is additional data provided by health officials about the Covid-19 case clusters identified in El Paso.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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