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El Paso County COVID-19 positive cases reach 68 as area leaders announce new restrictions

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso's health authority, said there are now 68 positive COVID-19 cases in El Paso. "We need to take very serious action against this," Ocaranza said during a news conference Wednesday evening. "All these rules, orders and regulations are to keep us healthy. The important thing is to stay home." The positive cases include 38 females and 30 males, the city said in a news release.

The city closed parks and recreational areas, declaring them off limits. Golf courses and country clubs have also been ordered closed. 

An emergency alert sent Wednesday night said "public and private gatherings of any number of people are prohibited."

In a news release emailed Thursday afternoon, the city's Parks and Recreation Department said the closures will remain until further notice.

"The closing of parks includes City-owned hike and bike trails, walking trails and playgrounds. Also not allowed are gatherings at any recreational areas or facilities," the release said.

It added that other park facilities, including aquatic centers, recreation centers, senior centers and sports facilities, still are closed.

The department's release said all Parks and Recreation programming, which includes Scenic Sundays, remains suspended. It said walking, running and cycling on Scenic Drive is not allowed on Sundays because the road will be open to traffic.

Health officials have said there is evidence of community spread in El Paso.

"Every time we report new numbers, whether it’s one or two or four, keep in mind that these are more potential exposures for people who may have underlying conditions," said Ocaranza. “When we ask you to stay home, you need to stay home.” 

He said 386 patients have been tested by the city's Department of Public Health, adding that some have had multiple tests made, but he did not know how many had been tested in private labs. 

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The order says reunions and parties at private homes and in public are prohibited.

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