With new hotspot in Redford, cases surge in county and region

PRESIDIO COUNTY — Coronavirus case counts are continuing to surge across the region and state. On Tuesday, the state reported more than 10,800 new cases — the highest figure in a single day since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Far West Texas has also emerged as a hotspot, with El Paso now reporting more than 28,000 active cases — a figure more than twice as high as Dallas, where there are currently around 11,000 cases. By comparison, Austin’s Travis county only has around 1,000. San Antonio’s Bexar County has around 4,000.

Presidio County also hit a milestone last week, when the county reported 37 new cases on November 4 — the highest local single-day count since the pandemic began.

Presidio County currently has 75 active coronavirus cases, according to state data, and the small South County town of Redford has emerged as a hotspot. Eleven coronavirus cases have been confirmed there, out of a total population of around 100. That means that more than 10 percent of Redford has been confirmed to have coronavirus, even though the first case there wasn’t even confirmed until late last month.

At press time, Redford residents and local health officials weren’t sure exactly what was causing the spike in Redford. Shafter — despite being similarly isolated, and despite having a small number residents — confirmed its first coronavirus case all the way back in July. Valentine has now also seen at least one case, after Mayor Summer Webb announced the town’s first case last month.

Redford has a couple businesses, and many residents there are also members of the Santa Teresa Church in Presidio. But based on interviews with residents and health officials, none of those factors appeared directly linked to the spread.

Redford has a Voyageur Outward Bound School — but the school is currently only open to students aged 18 to 25, and the school has found no cases despite regularly testing students, said Texas Program Director Brian Liggett. Likewise, Father Miguel “Mike” Alcuino at the Santa Teresa Church said only around six people were currently attending services, though he did not respond by press time to a request for comment on whether any of that group lived in Redford.

One likely explanation is that cases are simply starting to spill over from neighboring communities with coronavirus spread — including not only Presidio, but also Ojinaga. David Keller, a part-time resident, said that like in Presidio, many Redford residents had family, friends or second homes in Ojinaga.

“There’s a lot of crossover between Presidio and Ojinaga,” he said, “and significantly, between Redford and Ojinaga.” Currently, the U.S.-Mexico border is closed to “non-essential” traffic, though it’s unclear how strict those rules are on-the-ground. Meanwhile, neighboring Chihuahua State in Mexico has seen some of their country’s highest rates of the virus.

Malynda Richardson, the Presidio EMS director, said she wasn’t sure what exactly was driving the new cases in Redford. But across the region, case spread has largely been linked to small family gatherings, she said.

“Don’t assume that just because someone is a family member, that they’re safe,” Richardson said. “I know it’s tough, but with the numbers going up right now, I would avoid [those gatherings]. I really would.”

As the coronavirus crisis continues, Richardson acknowledged that many residents were feeling isolated and lonely and just wanted to see friends and family. Regardless, she urged people to continue to take precautions if they went to a small gathering, including gathering outside, wearing masks and limiting the number of people.