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El Paso coronavirus update: City reports 666 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths Tuesday

El Paso Times logo El Paso Times 10/21/2020 Times staff report, El Paso Times
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a person wearing a blue hat: Divine Ayong seals a test in a biohazard bag after collecting a sample Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at UTEP's Fox Fine Arts building. © Mark Lambie / El Paso Times Divine Ayong seals a test in a biohazard bag after collecting a sample Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at UTEP's Fox Fine Arts building.

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El Paso County reported 666 new infections and three additional deaths Tuesday.

All three people who died had underlying health conditions. They were a man in his 50s and two men in their 70s. The death toll is now 560.

Public health officials also reported 43 more cases from delayed state reports. 

The number of known active cases is 8,564 in El Paso County, health authorities said. 

Data show 565 patients are hospitalized, including 141 in intensive care and 68 on ventilators, officials said.  

City-county health authorities reported 38% of hospitalizations were due to COVID-19.

Officials said the total number of confirmed cases is 34,035, with 24,754 people who have recovered.

Texas is reporting 828,527 cases and 17,022 coronavirus deaths.

New Mexico has 37,302 cases and 935 deaths, with 4,765 cases and 63 deaths in Doña Ana County.

There are 10,043 cases and 992 deaths in Juárez.

Border restrictions continue

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday extended restrictions on nonessential travel at the U.S.-Mexico and Canadian borders. The travel restrictions have been in place since March 21 to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"To continue to limit the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Nov 21," acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said on Twitter.

Wolf said the U.S. is working with its counterparts to "ease the restrictions in the future & support our border communities."

U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may cross the U.S.-Mexico border, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection is urging residents to cross only for "essential" reasons, including for work or school.

State testing sites extended in El Paso County

The state testing sites within the city and county of El Paso have extended their operations through Oct. 31.

No appointments are needed. Testing is free and available to members of the community with or without COVID-19 symptoms. The tests, which are conducted by the state contractor HONU, collect nasal samples.

Two sites will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations:

• Nations Tobin Recreation Center; 8831 Railroad Drive

• El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus, 919 Hunter Drive

The testing site located at the Socorro Independent School District’s Student Activities Complex, 1300 Joe Battle Blvd., is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Friday and closed on Saturday. 

Test results from the state sites within the city will be provided via email within two to three days, and the public is reminded to check junk/spam email folders for the emailed test results. If they do not have an email, they will receive a phone call. For additional assistance regarding the HONU results, email Covid19Help@honumg.com or call the helpline at 844-778-2455.

Also, the Texas Military Department Mobile Testing Team is conducting additional testing in El Paso County’s rural communities.

Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

• Oct. 16: El Paso County ESD No. 2 Fire Station, 11440 N. Loop Drive, Socorro

• Oct. 19:  El Paso County ESD No. 2 headquarters, 16001 Socorro Road, Fabens

• Oct. 21: Montana Vista Fire Station No. 2, 5411 Paso View Drive, El Paso

• Oct. 22: Horizon First Baptist Church, 17018 Darrington Road, Horizon City

• Oct. 23: West Valley Fire Department, 510 Vinton Road, Anthony

• Oct. 26: El Paso County ESD No. 2 Fire Station, 11440 N. Loop Drive, Socorro

• Oct. 28: San Elizario Fire Station, 1415 San Antonio St., San Elizario

• Oct. 30: El Paso County ESD No. 2 headquarters, 16001 Socorro Road, Fabens

For help with rural test results, email help@txcovidtest.org or call 833-213-0643.

For more information about alternative testing locations, visit EPStrong.org.

Walmart COVID-19 testing

Individuals must schedule an appointment online at http://patient.questdiagnostics.com/myquestcovidtest.

Tuesdays and Thursdays:

  • 1551 N. Zaragoza Road
  • 101 E. Redd Road
  • 3000 Saul Kleinfeld Drive
  • 10301 Alameda Ave.
  • 4716 Hondo Pass Drive
  • 10840 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
  • 3590 N. Zaragoza Road
  • 1110 Sunland Park Drive

CVS COVID-19 testing

CVS officials report that the pharmacy will accept insurance at the drive-thru test sites and uninsured patients will be covered under a program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Individuals must register in advance at https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic.

Walgreens COVID-19 testing

Walgreens is offering no-cost COVID-19 testing.

Testing is available by appointment only and the details can be found online at https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/covid19/testing.

To receive an appointment for testing, individuals must first complete a screening survey online to determine eligibility. The test is a self-administered nasal swab test.

Individuals will be advised of location, date and time once screening is completed.

Project Vida offers COVID-19 testing

Project Vida is offering free COVID-19 testing at its Naftzger Clinic, at 3612 Pera Ave., in partnership with the city of El Paso.

The clinic's drive-thru test site is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. People are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 915-298-5044 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Testing is open to those with and without COVID-19 symptoms.

Free child care for some El Paso families impacted by COVID-19

The city of El Paso and the YWCA El Paso del Norte Region have partnered to offer free child care for children as old as 12 years whose families have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The YWCA will use CARES funds to offer child care, after-school services and other eligible expenses through December within contract rules.

Child care and after-school services will be provided to eligible families, essential employees and stressed families, with priority given to the city of El Paso employees. All beneficiaries must reside within the El Paso city limits, a news release said.

The YWCA will provide transportation, personal protective equipment and cleaning/disinfecting supplies to ensure that all sites where services are provided maintain strict health and safety standards.

Children participating in this free child care service will receive academic enrichment while parents return to their current jobs, pursue new employment or attend school.

Child care services are available to:

  • Children as old as 12 whose families are essential employees; stressed families as result of COVID-19; or current employees of the city of El Paso.
  • Families who reside within the city limits.
  • Families whose income is at or below 120% the area median income (about $63,000 a year for a family of four).
  • Families that can certify loss of income or economic impact directly related to COVID-19.

For more information, contact the YWCA Childcare Service at 915-519-0000. Visit the city's Department of Community and Human Development website for a list of additional COVID assistance.

Tenants can seek rental help online

Tenants who missed September’s rent because of financial problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic can visit EPRentHelp.org to tell their landlord about rental assistance available from the EP Rent Help Program.

To begin, visit EPRentHelp.org and click on the purple “I am a tenant” button on the homepage.

Once you fill out the form linked on the site, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation and its partners will reach out to your landlord on your behalf. Once they verify your landlord’s eligibility and willingness to participate, you’ll need to provide some information to your landlord. If you qualify for rental assistance, the payment will go directly to your landlord on your behalf.

Eligible tenants may qualify for up to three months of assistance dating back to March. To see if your landlord is already participating, visit EPRentHelp.org and click on the Participation Directory.

This program is funded by the federal CARES Act and is administered by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation and Under One Roof, the charitable foundation of the El Paso Apartment Association.

Important Facts About the EP Rent Help Program

  • The EP Rent Help Program already has committed more than $3 million in federal CARES Act funding to landlords within the city of El Paso.
  • Landlords must apply on behalf of their tenants to receive assistance.
  • Tenants will be required to provide information to their landlords to complete the application.
  • The program will not ask for immigration status nor will it be used in making decisions about who receives funding awards.

For more information, visit EPRentHelp.org.

CARES Act funding available for El Paso small businesses

Three El Paso nonprofit organizations have opened applications for grant programs to help small businesses and independent contractors impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The grant programs are funded through federal coronavirus relief funds the city of El Paso received.

LiftFund Inc. received $8.5 million to help businesses with five to 20 employees and annual gross revenue of up to $2 million. Businesses must demonstrate a loss of at least 15% in revenue since March 12 to apply for grants of up to $25,000. Application details can be found at cityofelpasosbrecoverygrantprogram.com.

Project Vida received $2.5 million to give grants of up to $5,000 to businesses with one to four employees and annual revenues of up to $2 million. Details on how to apply can be found at pvida.net/smallbusinesssupport.

PeopleFund received $2.5 million to give grants of up to $5,000 to independent contractors and sole proprietors without employees with annual revenues of up to $2 million. Applicants must demonstrate a loss of at least 15% in revenue due to the pandemic. For information on how to apply, visit peoplefund.org/elpaso.

El Paso Water offers bill assistance to customers

El Paso Water customers who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to receive payment assistance to help with past due bills. Details of the program and the application are available at epwater.org/covid19assistance.

El Paso Water received $500,000 in grant funding for the COVID-19 Assistance Program. Customers who qualify can receive a credit of up to three months, but no more than $500, toward past due balances. Customers are encouraged to apply right away since funding is limited.

To be eligible, customers must:

  •  Be a residential customer and live within El Paso city limits.
  • Meet household low-income thresholds.
  • Show loss of income as a result of COVID-19.
  • Have an active and verifiable account with El Paso Water.
  • Not be receiving any other assistance for payment of the water bill.

Many customers will continue to have outstanding balances, which will remain the customer’s responsibility, the utility said.

El Paso Water also is offering extended payment plans to all customers, whether or not they qualify for the grant assistance.

For more information, call 915-263-4444 or email Customer.recovery@epwater.org.

Project Amistad launches utility assistance program

Project Amistad has launched a utility assistance program to help city of El Paso renters and homeowners struggling to pay utility bills due to lost income caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is funded through federal coronavirus relief funds the city received and will provide a one-time grant of up to $500 to cover past due water, gas and electric bills.

It is only open to households at or below 80% of area median income. Additional eligibility requirements and information on how to apply can be found at projectamistad.org/amistadcares. For more information, call 915-298-7307 (select option 1 + option 1 + ZIP code).

Health officials urge recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma

El Paso health officials urge people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help current patients.

Hospitals use convalescent plasma therapy to treat severely ill coronavirus patients, which involves giving them blood transfusions from a recovered patient.

El Pasoans can donate plasma at Vitalant blood donation centers. Donors must be symptom-free for at least 28 days. For more information, visit vitalant.org/covidFree or call 866-287-6762.

Masks required at food pantries

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank is requiring anyone receiving food assistance at its mega distribution sites or mobile pantries to wear a face mask and vinyl gloves. People receiving assistance will load their own food. 

For more information on distribution locations and hours, visit elpasoansfightinghunger.org or call 915-298-0353.

What are the coronavirus symptoms?

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some people don't have any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms resemble the flu and include fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some people also develop aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

About one in six people become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing, according to the World Health Organization. If you experience fever, cough and shortness of breath, call your doctor.

Symptoms can appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, with the average patient seeing onset at around five days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC coronavirus safety tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website offers the following safety tips:

  • Wash hands often.
  • Avoid close contact with others by keeping at least 6 feet of distance.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Monitor your health.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso coronavirus update: City reports 666 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths Tuesday

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