EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — City of El Paso Department of Public Health officials confirmed a second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in El Paso.
The second case involves a male in his 40s who is currently hospitalized. Medical officials are in the early stages of the epidemiological investigation and have yet to determine if the man has a history of travel outside the region.
“News of this case came to us less than an hour before a press conference that had been scheduled days prior,” said Robert Resendes, public health director. “This is just an example of how quickly things can change when it comes to this virus and our willingness as public servants to provide accurate information to the public as swiftly as possible.”
The case follows Friday’s announcement of the first case, a man in his 40s who recently traveled to California. Both cases are presumptive positives, meaning they will need to be confirmed by the CDC, but officials say most cases returning presumptive positives are eventually confirmed.
The Department of Public Health says they’ll be testing samples seven days a week. Fort Bliss has its own testing facility and protocols.
Symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus include a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Local health officials say anyone who suspects they may have the virus should contact their health provider by phone before going into the doctor’s office or hospital. COVID-19 is spread via coughs and sneezes of those already infected.
Health officials say about 80-percent of cases are mild and most people do not need hospitalization. However, older adults and people with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at a greater risk.
On Saturday night, El Paso health officials issued new recommendations urging county schools to remain closed until April 6 in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
So far, most of the school district have announced that they will follow the reccomendation and close schools until April. Most of the schools are on Spring Brreak starting Monday and had agreed to extend the break an extra week.
The Health Department also issued additional guidance for children with special healthcare needs and those who have travel history.
Below are the recommendations given to the school districts as of Saturday, March 14:
- School districts directed to have students return from Spring Break on April 6, 2020.
- Children with special healthcare needs should not return to school during the current school year.
- All students, faculty and staff with travel history of fewer than 14 days will have to stay home for 14 days before returning to school and only if they are asymptomatic.
- Children with influenza-like symptoms will be sent home by a school nurse; they may return when they do not have a fever for more than 24 hours and no cough.
- All school districts are directed to cancel mass gatherings/events, including, but not limited to sports, commencement ceremonies, concerts, etc.
- All schools are directed to collect information on a daily basis on absenteeism due to influenza-like illness (by grade and school); starting on the first day the students return from Spring Break.
- All schools are directed to promote and implement effective hygiene activity among students and personnel, teaching them proper handwashing, cough etiquette, cleaning of working surfaces and social distancing.
- All schools are directed to stagger lunch hours to prevent large gatherings in the cafeteria.
The Health Department also issued guidance to local school districts for temporary school dismissal which should be considered on a case-by-case basis:
- Presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in a school
- Community-wide spread of the virus
- Impact to our community
In addition to public school districts, the Health Department says they’ll be reaching out to private and charter schools to ensure all educational institutions in El Paso are on the same page with regard to preventative measures for students upon their return to campus.
This is a developing story.