The two leading medical authorities in El Paso County, doctors Hector Ocaranza and Fernando Gonzalez, agree on one thing about the COVID-19 virus in this community: a second wave is coming.

How bad it is depends on us.

“We need to plan for a second wave,” Ocaranza, the El Paso city and county chief health authority, told the El Paso City Council at a special remote meeting Wednesday.

It will happen, he said, when, not if, people let down their guard and quit practicing social distancing and personal hygiene – from hand-washing to wearing masks in public.

Then, the question is whether there will be a third wave.

“This is the international pattern of a pandemic,” Gonzalez, the El Paso Department of Public Health’s lead epidemiologist, said in an interview with El Paso Inc. “Second, third and fourth waves are common during pandemics.

“Epidemics are more controlled events with less population and geographic coverage.”

It would take a “new normality,” Gonzalez said, to prevent successive waves of COVID-19.

“This needs to become a way of life, a lifestyle,” he said. “Assign a sole individual in your family to attend activities in the community, like getting groceries and gas. Those types of things are going to be part of our daily life.

“If we don’t follow strictly and responsibly the preventative measures, cases will keep up, and nobody in this world has immunity to this disease. So if you permit this disease to come close to you, you will get it.”

However, with political pressure building everywhere to loosen COVID-19 restrictions, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continued to ease restrictions, allowing food courts in malls to open, outdoor motorsport events and waterparks to open at 25% attendance capacity.

The city and county aligned the local emergency directive with Abbott’s proclamation.

“Balancing public and economic health is critical during this unprecedented time, so everyone needs to continue doing their part by following health guidelines,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement Thursday. “I will continue working with the governor to ensure El Paso has the necessary resources as he continues the reopening of the state.”

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Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 630-6622.

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