EL PASO, Texas -- Calling it a "very somber" moment, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced the city's first coronavirus death on Thursday afternoon, as he noted that the total number of confirmed cases had grown to 225.
The death involved a man in his 80s. He had been in an intensive care unit at a hospital on the city's east side, sources told ABC-7.
"It's with a heavy heart that we report the first death in our community, we feel very sad," added Dr. Hector Ocaranza of the City/County Health Authority, who said the victim had an extensive list of pre-existing medical conditions that made him especially susceptible to the virus.
Ocaranza indicated that 11 of El Paso's 33 new cases had occurred in a healthcare facility in the city, but he did not specify which one.
There is also a trend emerging in El Paso where the virus is being spread at gatherings —clusters of people — in their homes as they host parties or visit their friends and families, according to Orcaranza.
“We are seeing a rapid increase in cases and these clusters are an example of how easy the virus spreads by being in close contact with an infected individual that in some cases can be asymptomatic (which means 'without symptoms'),” he explained.
To exemplify the doctor's point, Margo said a dozen virus cases could be traced to two gatherings over the past week involving a group of 20-year olds and a group of 40-year olds.
“In one group, five were positive cases and in the other, seven were positive cases,” he pointed out.
There are now a total of 48 virus patients who are hospitalized in El Paso, and 19 of those hospitalized were in intensive care as of Thursday.
"We need to remain vigilant, that's how we stop this virus," Ocaranza said, continuing to urge El Pasoans to obey the city-county "stay home, work safe" order as well as avoid temptation to gather with family and friends during the Easter holiday weekend.
And El Paso's top health leader also urged residents to use face coverings when out performing essential duties or tasks.
To date, over 3,500 coronavirus tests have been conducted by public health officials in El Paso. But El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino emphasized that testing will continue producing higher numbers of positive results if behavior doesn't change.
“If we as a community do not do something to stop the trend, the numbers will continue to rise,” D’Agostino said.
Below is the latest case locator map and other demographic information on the virus outbreak as provided by the health department, followed by a video player in which you can watch the entire briefing Thursday afternoon from the mayor and Dr. Ocaranza.