COVID-19 pandemic peaking in El Paso-Juarez region with nearly 200 new cases, 13 deaths

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Mass outbreaks reported at Juarez water utility, Mexican military base

An American and Texas flag are seen flying in front of the skyline of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez on July 18, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The El Paso-Juarez border region is reporting nearly 200 new COVID-19 infections Thursday and 13 additional fatalities.

El Paso County recorded 108 new cases, bringing its total to 2,569 since the pandemic began. Of those, 1,032 are active cases. Four county residents — a male in his 70s, two women in their 50s and one in her 60s — all with underlying health conditions, lost their lives.

“Every death is not just a number. Each of these individuals are someone’s loved one and we grieve with them for their loss,” said El Paso City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza. “We are also reporting another large spike in positive cases.”

He said more spikes and additional deaths are likely until residents hold themselves accountable to social distancing and stay-at-home rules still in effect.

In Juarez, the number of cases jumped by 73 on Thursday and there are nine new fatalities. The city across the border from El Paso is now up to 1,087 confirmed cases and 247 fatalities.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela of the Chihuahua State Health Department shows a chart of daily new COVID-19 contagions showing the pandemic is at its peak. (photo from Facebook Live)

However, Mexican officials admit the actual number of cases is up in the thousands due to asymptomatic patients and lack of testing. Juarez’s COVID-19 mortality rate now stands at 22.5 percent, compared to El Paso at just under 3 percent.

Juarez officials confirmed at least one new mass outbreak. Twenty-two employees of the municipally-owned water utility have tested positive for COVID-19. Most showed no symptoms and were just sent home. The officials couldn’t immediately confirm Mexican press reports of a second outbreak, one that allegedly sickened 31 soldiers at a military base in southern Chihuahua state.

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua State Health Department in Juarez, this morning displayed a chart showing the Mexican border’s new normal at the pandemic hits its high point: More than 50 new daily COVID-19 cases recorded in eight out of the past nine days.

He urged residents to stay at home for the remainder of the week and observe social distancing and hygiene rules once Mexico begins reopening its economy on Monday.

Already, traffic from El Paso to Mexico is increasing and wait tines at U.S. ports of entry are creeping back up, according to an independent border-traffic monitoring service.

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