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UTEP reports more than 400 COVID-19 cases in two weeks

El Paso’s public health crisis trickles to UTEP
Maria Salette Ontiveros
Sign at one of the tables located in the Union building West Monday Aug. 24.

The number of UTEP-affiliated COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed since Oct. 12 and it consists of the number of positive cases through UTEP’s testing program and the number of people who’ve reported their positive status, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard shows.

From Oct. 12 to Oct. 25, there was a total of 443 positive COVID-19 cases through both the testing program and the number of people who self-reported. In the week of Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, the dashboard reported 191 positive cases through UTEP testing along with 30 self-reported cases. For the week of Oct. 19 to Oct. 25, it was 199 cases through the university’s program along with 23 that were self reported.

There is a cumulative total of 527 positive cases conducted by the program, and 85 self-reported cases since the university began reporting its COVID numbers Aug. 24.

The purpose of the COVID-19 testing program is to find asymptomatic UTEP employees, students, and staff that will be on campus for the fall semester.

The testing program is an interdisciplinary effort led by faculty in the Border Biomedical Research Center and various departments. It also involves staff from the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects and Information Technology and University Relations. The program is funded by federal dollars through the CARES Act.

According to UTEP President Heather Wilson, in the last few weeks the number of people taking advantage of the UTEP testing sites has increased significantly, as last week approximately three-quarters of those who tested positive through the program had not been on campus for at least two weeks prior to the test with mostly students who are taking one hundred percent online classes.

There’s also surge of COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations in the City of El Paso, leading to a public health crisis. A record 13,926 active cases were reported by the city on Oct. 27 and 839 people are currently hospitalized. UTEP has opened a drive-thru testing site in collaboration with the city as there is a public demand for more testing sites in El Paso.

State drive-thru testing site available to the public

UTEP began hosting a state drive-thru testing site Oct. 21 which is available to the public at the Schuster 1 parking lot, off Schuster Avenue at the Spur 1966 roundabout on the south side of the campus. Testing is available Monday through Friday and UTEP will conduct up to 1,000 tests a day.

Anyone five years old or older with or without symptoms can receive the free test which operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday though Sunday. Results will be provided via email within three to five days and if residents do not have an email address, they will be notified by phone call.

No appointments are needed for the drive-thru site however once the daily capacity is reached within the site the site will be closed for the day to additional testing.

“During these unprecedented times, our focus and priority remains on the health and safety of our residents,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo stated in UTEP news release. “This includes making more testing sites available to address the demand during the surge in new cases.”

There are only three testing sites available in the City of El Paso and with the surging amount of cases, another site is beneficial to the city.

Designated UTEP line

UTEP has negotiated with the city for the drive-thru site to have a separate line designated for UTEP employee, students, and their family members in the same vehicle. You must show your UTEP Miner Gold Card to have access to the designated line and if you do not have your ID you will be asked to join the general public line. The line is free and no appointment is needed.

Starting Oct. 27, the UTEP line is available Monday through Friday, in the Schuster 3 parking lot between Prospect Street and Lawton Drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until the daily capacity is reached. According to a news release sent by the President’s Office, the wait times averaged in the UTEP lines were 30-40 minutes while the state drive-thru testing lines were an hour-and-a-half.

To help speed up the process when you arrive at the drive-through site, please be sure to read the signs and fill out the online registration while you are waiting your turn for testing. The state testing registration form is not the same as UTEP’s Coronavirus Proactive Testing Program consent form to participate in walk-up testing on campus.

The purpose of the designated UTEP line is the convenient option it gives UTEP students that are taking classes entirely online, and faculty and staff that are working remotely as well as allowing their family members to get tested in a faster line than the general public.

Comparison with other Universities and Cities

New Mexico State University which is in proximity to UTEP reported 64 positive cases since Oct. 5 with 40 cases reported in the last two weeks.

There are 5,965 active cases in Dona Ana County with an average of 151 cases reported over the last seven days. Dona Anna County is New Mexico’s southern hot spot according to the Las Cruces Sun News with the second highest case total among the states 33 counties.

Over the last seven days Rice University located in Houston, Texas conducted 4,768 tests with five positive reported tests. Since Aug. 1, Rice has conducted 48,225 tests with 49 reported positive cases.

NMSU and Rice University’s COVID-19 testing program is similar to UTEP’s in that it is voluntary, and its purpose is to find asymptomatic individuals who will be on campus during the fall semester.

El Paso currently has a daily average of 1,080 cases over the past seven days which is the highest reported average in the State of Texas.

El Paso County judge Richard Samaniego imposed a curfew Oct. 25 to be set in place for the next two weeks to slow the spread of the COVID-19 crisis within the city.

Other Testing Locations

Testing Locations in El Paso include El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus, 919 Hunter Dr.; Nation Tobin Recreation Center, 8831 Railroad Dr.; and SISD’s Student Activities Complex, 1300 Joe Battle Blvd, as well as the UTEP state drive-thru testing site.

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected]; @_IsaiahRamirez1 on Twitter.

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About the Contributors
Isaiah Ramirez
Isaiah Ramirez is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. Isaiah has worked for the university’s paper The Prospector since Spring 2018 and has held the position as a sports editor and is currently a reporter at the publication. During the fall semesters he also works as an on-air reporter for Football Friday Nights a weekly radio show showcasing local football games broadcasted by 600 ESPN El Paso. He covers local news as well as local and UTEP sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s basketball, and has covered the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game and two-time NBA champion Danny Green’s basketball camp here in the Sun City.
Maria Salette Ontiveros
Maria Salette Ontiveros is a Graduate Student in The University of Texas at El Paso mastering in Arts of Communication. She contributes at The Prospector as a photographer. She has a Multimedia Journalism Degree with a minor in Creative Writing. She hopes to become a social media manager or join the field of broadcast  covering news,  entertainment, and sports. She plays professional basketball in Ciudad Juarez and likes to play volleyball as a hobby.
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UTEP reports more than 400 COVID-19 cases in two weeks