EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Now that gyms are open and people can run in parks, El Paso leaders are urging residents to get fit and stand a better chance to survive a COVID-19 infection.
The Live Active El Paso and other mitigation measures “is our plan to get the community to take an active response to this pandemic as we learn to live with (COVID-19),” said El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino. “This plan is to help the community realize that being healthy places less of a risk on them.”
El Paso County has 4,553 confirmed coronavirus cases and 120 fatalities. Most of the dead had underlying medical conditions such as hypertension (63%) and diabetes (42%). Many others suffered from obesity. A total of 68.2% of adults in El Paso County are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
“Here in El Paso the obesity, the diabetes, the high blood pressure, people who have issues with lungs isn’t anything new,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. But “those are the people that when they get (COVID-19) … the majority, the 90% percentile of people have passed because they had those underlying conditions.”
The community wellness initiative will push the concept of active living within the restrictions placed by building occupancy and social distancing limits.
“This call to live active is something that can attack a second wave of COVID-19 and also the flu that’s coming in the fall,” Gonzalez said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “We need to, as a community, emotionally recover and being active is part of good mental health.”
The death rate in the county has remained around 2.8 to 2.9% in recent weeks and hospitalization rates are stable, though they went up in the past week. Most of the victims (92.24%) are Latinos, which is to be expected in a community that’s 83% Hispanic, health officials said.
“This isn’t just about going to the gym, it’s about activating our lives in different ways and looking at a wholistic approach to taking care of ourselves,” said Deputy City Manager Tracey Jerome. “Going out to get tested, getting our flu shots, taking a walk with the family, managing our stress. All of this is going to make us stronger for whatever challenge we’re going to be facing next.”
Health officials have already surpassed their goal of testing 5% of the population by the end of June. An average of 950 El Pasoans are being tested daily — with a 7.8% positivity rate — and testing sites continue to proliferate. However, the number of people taking advantage of this free screening is slowing down.
“We must remain ever vigilant, take this seriously and go get testing,” Gonzalez said, adding he’s aware that “COVID-19 fatigue” is starting to affect many people across the country. “We can’t force people to be tested, but we can let them know it’s available.”
For information on testing sites, visit epstrong.org.