By Shawn Mulcahy, Texas Tribune
Cases of COVID-19 in El Paso continued to skyrocket on Wednesday as the city reported a record 3,100 new people contracted the virus, smashing the previous single-day record by more than 1,000.
City officials also reported eight additional deaths and more than total 21,900 active cases.
El Paso in recent weeks has struggled to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus. Hospitals are near or at capacity, and El Paso County has set up four temporary morgues.
The record-breaking case count comes as a state district judge is set to hear arguments Wednesday over a shutdown order issued last month by El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. The judge mandated a countywide, two-week closing of all nonessential businesses late last month to help contain the outbreak.
A group of restaurant owners is challenging the judge’s order and claims it’s illegal because it goes beyond the limits set forth in Gov. Greg Abbott’s own statewide executive order. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the businesses and is seeking an immediate halt to Samaniego’s order.
Other areas of the state, including parts of the Panhandle, have likewise seen a surge in new cases. Lubbock, another growing hot spot, on Tuesday reported 459 new cases of COVID-19. In Amarillo, officials on Tuesday reported 518 new cases.
Statewide, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all trending upward. The seven-day average of new cases is up more than 220 compared with a week ago, and there are 424 more patients in Texas hospitals than last week.
Health officials urged residents to follow precautions, such as washing hands, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.