El Paso, TX

El Paso's City Leaders and Medical Experts are Not Talking About COVID Variant. Or are They?

Tom Handy

El Paso City LeadersScreenshot from El Paso Matters

On Monday, July 19, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said there were no cases of the Delta variant in the city. Recently some medical experts said there may be cases of the Delta variant in the city. Mayor Leeser helped confirm this in the press conference after recent health officials said there may be a chance the Delta variant was in El Paso.

At the news conference, El Paso leaders said 277 people tested positive for the virus even though they’re fully vaccinated. Major Leeser added 70 percent of the city has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Two doses are recommended to get the full effect of the vaccine. The Mayor said 68 percent of people age 12 and over have been fully vaccinated.

Mayor Leeser said there are currently 606 active COVID-19 cases in El Paso. The majority of the cases or 76 percent of those cases are from people who are not vaccinated. The state of Texas is at 50% so El Paso is doing well in terms of vaccination rates.

The Mayor said all of the COVID cases are sent to Lubbock.

"We test the same way. We send ours [test] to Lubbock where they do genetics and determine, it takes 7-10 days to see what type of variant it may be."

Mayor Leeser said they were working to open a COVID testing center in the northeast. At the new facility, they will find out COVID results in 3 to 4 days to identify the variant.

Lesser said there were four variants in El Paso that City documents showed. There is a UK variant, a Brazil variant, but the Delta variant was not confirmed.

Some people in El Paso were getting COVID because of travel which they may have received from other people.

Vaccination is the best tool that we have to prevent spreading variants in our community,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza of the El Paso Health Authority said.

The COVID vaccine helps reduce the chance of getting COIVD. The COVID vaccine is effective against the Delta variant though some people may still get the vaccine in a COVID breakthrough infection.

Samaniego said, “I’m hoping that collaboration between the mayor and myself and everyone else here in our community will keep us from going in the wrong direction.” Communication is key to ensure everyone is talking about the virus and its spread in El Paso.

The video of the press conference starts at the 7:00 minute mark.

Active COVID cases are back up to where they were a month ago in June.

El Paso COVID-19El Paso Department of Public Health

Ocaranza doesn’t expect to see high cases that El Paso saw in 2020. He sees that since more people are vaccinated, the rate won’t be high. In November, COVID cases reached 13,500 people.

Four COVID Variants

There are four different COVID variants.

B.1.1.7 (Alpha): This variant was initially detected in the United Kingdom.

It was detected in the United States in December 2020.

B.1.351 (Beta): This variant was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020. It was first detected in the United States at the end of January 2021.

P.1 (Gamma): This variant was initially identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested on a routine screening at an airport in Japan, in January. It was first detected in the United States in January 2021.

B.1.617.2 (Delta): This variant was initially identified in India in December 2020. It was first detected in the United States in March 2021.

Judge Samiengo encouraged everyone to get the COVID vaccine to help keep everyone safe.

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