EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) — El Paso is the only major city in Texas that’s seen a spike in the coronavirus since Labor Day Weekend.
Health leaders in the Borderland say El Paso’s unique location could be hurting the city’s recovery from the virus.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, cities throughout the country have seen spikes in the virus about two weeks after major holidays, with health leaders in El Paso saying people tend to gather and travel on those days, spreading the virus with them.
There was similar concern that Labor Day would have the same effect, but weeks after the holiday, every other major city in the state is reporting that it didn’t experience a spike, with some cities like Austin reporting declines in their COVID numbers.
And other major Hispanic populations like Los Angeles have reported not seeing a spike either.
But that hasn’t been the case in El Paso, where the virus has been skyrocketing since Labor Day Weekend, with active cases jumping 40% in the past three weeks.
KFOX14 asked El Paso’s Department of Public Health why the Sun City looks to be the only community going in the wrong direction.
Public Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said one thing that stood out: El Paso’s close relationship with the US-Mexico border and Ciudad Juarez, where health officials said the real extent of the virus was still unknown.
“There’s a lot more people in El Paso that travel south compared to Los Angeles or compared to San Antonio, for example,” Dr. Ocaranza said. “That might be one reason, the accessibility that we have to be crossing the border.”
Other health experts tend to agree.
Dr. Armando Meza is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech’s Health Sciences Center in El Paso.
Dr. Meza said there were multiple factors that could explain why El Paso has been seeing a spike in the coronavirus after Labor Day when every other major city in Texas hasn’t.
According to Dr. Meza, while nonessential border travel has been shut down for months due to the pandemic, high levels of traffic have still been crossing the international bridges between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, where Meza said doctors he’d spoken with still didn’t know how widespread the coronavirus really was.
Additionally, Dr. Meza said the population of El Paso was a risk factor in itself.
Because of lower relative income, Dr. Meza said El Paso’s population may be less able to social distance than other cities, causing more new cases.
And while other cities like San Antonio and Los Angeles have significant Hispanic populations, El Paso’s is much higher.
Additionally, Dr. Meza said because Hispanics face higher rates of underlying conditions, El Pasoans could face a greater chance of being hospitalized by the virus.
“Severe patients, severely infected cases are going to be more likely to have what they call the super-spreader kind of situation, like you may see in the community,” Dr. Meza said.
The health department said it was still investigating what was behind the spike in El Paso’s coronavirus numbers.
For the latest updates on COVID-19 in our area and around the world, head to our coronavirus section.
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