A health expert is urging residents to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases rise in border towns

The head of the Juarez Medical College worries that the infection may have spread among the crowds at the recent fair; The El Paso expert says the treatment is much better now than it was in 2020

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than 400,000 people attended the recently concluded Feria Juarez 2022, approaching a pre-COVID record, Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said.

The annual fair experienced slow attendance in its first week – likely due to a string of triple-digit heat days – but has picked up over the past 14 days; a single concert by Mexican regional music star Julion Alvarez drew 52,000 people, city officials told Border Report.

No violence was reported at the fairgrounds, although a triple homicide occurred in mid-June at a home a few blocks away.

The mayor said the promoter responsible for the fair’s concerts is donating $150,000 to the city’s children’s agency.

But as cases of COVID-19 rise in both Juarez and El Paso, health officials worry that many fairgoers may soon show symptoms of the disease.

“The fair could have required and enforced the use of face masks, but it didn’t because they preferred business and entertainment over health,” Dr. Lorenzo Soberanes, head of the Juarez Medical College, told local media. “We hope this will not lead to (adverse) consequences.”

Juarez this week reported 794 new cases and three deaths to bring the total to 53,607 cases and 4,651 deaths since the start of the pandemic. El Paso is also reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, though a health expert is urging border residents to keep things in perspective.

El Paso on Wednesday reported 428 new cases, two deaths and 78 hospitalizations. The city has recorded 256,446 positive tests and 3,510 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“Hospitals are up, cases are up, but it’s not 2020,” said Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease specialist at Sunset West Health and appointed to various councils and task forces on the response to COVID- 19. “We have therapists who help people in hospitals, we have therapists who help people outside of the hospital. And we have a population that is not only overwhelmingly vaccinated, but overwhelmingly (previously) infected.”

Alozie estimates that up to half of those who test positive for COVID-19 and are hospitalized likely suffer from co-morbidities rather than the infection itself.

“They’re not sick with pneumonia, they’re not sick with oxygen. They are people who are there with diabetes, hypertension and multiple medical conditions that have nothing to do with their COVID,” Alozzi said. “If you’re worried, get vaccinated. We will live with COVID. It’s not going anywhere.”

El Paso City Health officials and Dr. Hector Ocaranza also urged border residents to get tested and boost their immunity through vaccination.

“The large increase in new cases has led to more people needing hospitalization,” Ocaranza said. “Thankfully the number of people staying in hospital is still relatively low, but that could change very quickly. Therefore, we strongly encourage the community to recommit to preventive and proactive measures such as wearing a face covering while indoors, avoiding large gatherings, getting tested, staying home if you are sick, and also obtaining and maintaining your vaccination against COVID-19 to include your booster shots.”

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