EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso should get its first coronavirus vaccines for healthcare workers late today or Tuesday, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.

Despite that good news – coupled with fewer new cases being reported and hospitals not being as crowded as they were last month — the county will be imposing a curfew for the Christmas and New Year holidays, he said.

“I think we’re looking a little bit better. We just need to not drop our guard but be able to do what we need to do,” Samaniego said at Monday’s County Commissioners Court meeting. “I feel we’re at that last point where we really need to really go out there and do the best we can, in staying away from gatherings.”

The curfew could be similar the ones imposed in October and November, which ran from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and included a $500 fine for violations. People going to work, grocery shopping or to seek medical attention would be exempt.

“We will divide it … first on Christmas and at the beginning of New Year’s and is strictly focused on social interaction. Without a curfew we would not be able to disperse large groups,” Samaniego said. “These are things we don’t like to do and damped the spirit but we want a lot more holidays and Christmases and New Years for our loved ones.”

The county on Monday reported 13 new coronavirus-related fatalities, 219 cases and seven additional cases reported extemporaneously by the Texas State Department of Health.

Samaniego said the COVID-19 situation has improved, with the county going from Stage 1 threat level to Stage 2. Hospital capacity is at 26% and the volume of new cases over the past few days has been flattening. Fatalities remain high due to the lag between the time a person catches the disease and passes away, as well as delays in reporting the cause of death.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego

Samaniego urged border residents to not be afraid to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available for the general public. He said its first dose decreases the chances of people catching the virus, while the complimentary shot that must be taken 21 days later increases immunity to 94%.

But he said the vaccine is only one step people can take to avoid catching — or surviving — COVID-19.

“We have to look at it only as one component. Get the flu shot, be cautious out there. Those are things we have to do as we wait for the vaccinations and all the logistics that take place,” Samaniego said. “One of the levels of protection is to be healthy. The virus is very hard on underlying conditions. Be proactive. Take your flu shot.”

Juarez dismantles COVID-19 field hospitals as cases drop

The COVID-19 infection curve is also trending downward in Juarez, Mexico, and some businesses there on Monday got the green light to expand hours of operation.

Restaurants can now stay open through 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Liquor stores may reopen, and people once again can go to parks, plazas and other outdoor public gathering places if they observe social distancing, the government of Chihuahua said. Gyms, bars and nightclubs remain closed.

Juarez General Hospital is also dismantling its mobile field hospital, which tended to 29 COVID-19 patients when all of the city’s public hospitals were full but hasn’t seen new patients in several days.

As in El Paso, Mexican health authorities are discouraging people from gathering in large numbers on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

“Celebrate Christmas but observe prevention. You can stay close to your family without being physically there. This is not a time for reunions, posadas or parties. […] You can show your love through cell phone (messages), calls and video calls,” said Dr. Wendy Avila, deputy director of preventive health services for the State of Chihuahua.

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