El Paso officials ‘cautiously optimistic’ about decrease in hospitalizations, new COVID-19 cases


Thanksgiving holiday brings no apparent spike in infections, but health authorities say the real test will come after Christmas

Residents sit outdoors on the sidewalk amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the city on November 18, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Texas surpassed 20,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths on November 16, the second highest in the U.S., with active cases in El Paso now over 34,000 and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at 804. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso officials are “cautiously optimistic” about a noticeable decrease in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Further, they haven’t seen the traditional spike in cases following major holidays, and it’s been 13 days since Thanksgiving.

“The trend continues downward despite what we had seen 10 to 14 days after a holiday. Hopefully this is because people are following the recommendations we have made,” said El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza.

El Paso on Tuesday reported 500 new coronavirus cases and 126 extemporaneous confirmations from the Texas State Department of Public Health. By contrast, the county early last month was seeing one-day spikes of 1,423 (Nov. 6) and 3,538 (Nov. 4) cases. (Officials later revised that Nov. 4 number to over 1,500 and attributed the change to a data backlog.)

Hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases (white line in chart) have decreased substantially in El Paso after peaking in late October and early November. (Graphic courtesy City of El Paso)

More than 1,000 people were in hospitals fighting COVID-19 consistently through last month, raising fears about a lack of hospital beds for coronavirus or other gravely ill patients. On Tuesday, only 665 were hospitalized.

However, Ocaranza said the real test will come in mid-January, when the after-effects Christmas gatherings can be measured.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza

“We have to keep our guard up. We have published holiday recommendations, so we don’t see the upper trend that comes from all the holiday gatherings,” he said.

The county’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 1,057, but some 600 suspicious deaths remain under investigation or haven’t been entered into databases as coronavirus-related, health officials said.

“I think the doctors have responded in filling out death certificates. Unfortunately, some of the family members – the relatives – have to choose a funeral home and that could be an issue because the funeral directors are the ones that initiate the whole electronic process for the death certificate,” Ocaranza said.

Hospitals, nursing homes and other places where COVID-19 fatalities occur also take time fulfilling records requests, he said.

Health officials are also urging people to not stop wearing masks, social distancing or avoiding large gathering. There are concerns this will happen now that people know a COVID-19 vaccine could be on the way in a matter of days.

“The solution remains in everyone’s hands. Everyone needs to do the right thing and continue having a positive impact in the community,” Ocaranza said.

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