EL PASO, Texas -- In a special meeting Thursday, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and the Commissioner's Court voted to extend the local emergency declaration due to coronavirus for an undetermined amount of time.
As of Thursday, six people in the county had tested positive for infection. Dozens more had underwent testing that came back negative.
But commissioner Vince Perez questioned whether the county, which currently has about 800 testing kits, has enough to adequately handle the potential need.
"That's why having a population of approximately a million people and having to test all the people is impossible," replied Dr. Hector Ocaranza with the El Paso City/County Department of Public Health.
He reiterated that testing is being given to those who meet Centers for Disease Control criteria.
Ocaranza emphasized the importance of social distancing, saying that people avoiding large gatherings and keeping space between them and others is the best way to avoid getting sick.
"If we have too many people sick at the same time, it's going to create an infection that is so high and so sharp and in such a small amount of time, that it will overwhelm all of our resources. We cannot afford to do that," he said.
Commissioners also discussed the county's preparation and response to the COVID-19 situation with various departments giving updates Thursday.
Sheriff Richard Wiles said the jail has plenty of space in case an inmate needs to be isolated.
He said guards are limiting visitation and eliminating person-to-person contact and the jail is considering tablets so visitors can see inmates on video.
The sheriff told commissioners he is also considering screening all people who visit the courthouse, which he said would entail limiting it to only one entrance.
The majority of county departments have only essential personnel coming to work, and have numerous employees working from home.