Texas Governor Sends Help to El Paso as Virus Spikes in Border City

El Paso, Texas. (Photo via Björn Blanck/Pixabay)

(CN) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sending more than 70 health workers to the border city of El Paso as a resurgence of the coronavirus has officials warning of “virus fatigue” and urging residents to take precautions.

Abbott said Monday the surge of state resources includes nurses and respiratory therapists, among other medical personnel, along with a stockpile of personal protective equipment. He said 169 health workers were previously deployed to the city.

“It is vital that Texas communities seeing an uptick in hospitalizations have the resources they need to combat Covid-19,” Abbott said in a statement.

El Paso on Friday reported 546 new virus cases, its highest daily count since the pandemic began and a drastic reversal from just a month ago, when new case counts had significantly dropped after a previous summer spike.

Local officials have sounded the alarm and urged residents to step up their precautions, saying the new surge in cases is likely tied to a general feeling of pandemic “fatigue” in the community. Officials on Saturday cited an increase in virus cases particularly among people in their 20s and 30s, saying they had contracted the virus “while out in public” and because they were not taking safety precautions like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

“As we continue to experience community spread and Covid fatigue, the number of positive cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise by record numbers unless each and every one of us take full responsibility for our actions and promote change as we have been appealing, mandating and begging,” Hector Ocaranza, the local health authority for El Paso and its surrounding county, said in a statement over the weekend.

Angela Mora, the city’s newly appointed public health director, urged people infected with the virus to cooperate with contact tracing efforts.

“Non-adherence to isolation and quarantine orders will lead to drastic measures such as issuance of court-ordered restrictions to limit an individual’s movement,” she warned.

El Paso Matters, a local nonprofit news outlet, described the situation as a “second wave” where “prevention measures appear to have broken down.” 

Local hospitalizations of people sick with Covid-19 have shot up in El Paso over just the past few days, jumping from 207 on Friday to 313 as of Monday, according to reports from the city. Meanwhile, the number of new deaths from the virus remained lower than during the previous surge over the summer, though the city has cautioned that more than 100 deaths are still “under investigation” for possibly being caused by Covid-19.

The outbreak in El Paso comes as the West Texas city of Lubbock also deals with a resurgence of the virus. That city hit a new record for Covid-19 hospitalizations over the weekend, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.

Last week, Abbott announced that bars in Texas could reopen at limited capacity after being closed for months, though county-level officials have to opt-in to the reopening plan and some in most of the state’s largest counties have reportedly declined to do so.

For Texas as a whole, new daily virus numbers have mostly plateaued in recent weeks, with the state’s seven-day average of hospitalizations and new cases and hovering between 3,000 and 4,000 since the beginning of September. Hospitalizations have been on a slight upward trend over the past week, state data show.

“Opening bars does not mean that Covid-19 is no longer a threat, and most Texans are still susceptible to the virus,” Abbott said in announcing the latest reopening move last week. “As bars and similar businesses begin to open, we all must remain vigilant and show personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

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