There are several public discussions concerning whether the country should open for business. The debate centers on the dangers of COVID-19 and whether or not people will be safe and not create spikes in cases. El Paso is also having the same debate. The competing issues are the number of unemployed persons versus the COVID-19 mortality rate, which according to medical experts, has not reached its plateau in the city.

Is it safe for businesses to open back up?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. One way to answer the question whether El Paso is safe to open depends on the available data. There are two data points that are necessary to analyze to decide whether it is safe for people to get back to business.

The first is where El Paso stands in relation to the rest of country when it comes to the mortality rate of the Corona virus, as well as the number of cases. Before we look at the numbers it is important to point out that the data is based on the number of tested patients. The more patients that are tested, the higher the number of cases will be. It is possible to have positive Covid-19 patients that have not been tested. Some jurisdictions are testing more than others.

As of today, El Paso County officials have reported 986 cases of positive COVID-19 patients and 22 deaths have been caused by the virus. The number of reported cases of COVID-19 in El Paso County represents a rate of 3.85% of the population. The mortality rate by population stands at 0.00%. (it registers with more digits, but for the purposes of this post we have limited it to two digits)

To understand where El Paso stands on these metrics it is important to compare the rates of Texas and the national rate. Texas has reported a rate of 0.11% of virus cases per population. In terms of the mortality rate by population, Texas stands at 2.78%.

Readers should also consider the rates of New Mexico as El Paso borders that state. New Mexico has reported an infection rate of 3.70% per population and a mortality rate by population of 0.18%.

Nationally, as of today, the number of cases of the Covid-19 infection per population stands at 0.34%. The national mortality rate stands at 5.88% per population.

The El Paso rate of positive cases is higher than the Texas rate and lower than the national average. However, because the metrics are dependent on testing the results are illustrative at best.

The issue of unemployment is another important metric for jurisdictions because the higher number of unemployment benefits that are paid the more stress they put on the finances of the local economies. Opening a jurisdiction for work pushes the unemployment benefits down as benefit recipients return to work. The lower the number of workers on unemployment benefits the less cost to the jurisdiction.

Thus, local government are under pressure to reopen their economies as quickly as possible.

Nationally the unemployment claims, according to the U.S. Department of Labor as of April 18 is 16,175,328. That represents a rate of 11.14% of those entitled to the benefit. The rate for Texas is 7.41% and for New Mexico it is 10.09%.

The number of El Paso unemployment filings, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, stands at 32,566. That represents a rate of about 3.81% of the population. El Paso’s 79936 zip code has the third highest number unemployment claimants in Texas, according to the TWC.

Regarding the number of cases of COVID-19 infection, El Paso stands lower than the rest of Texas and slightly higher than New Mexico. However, the rate of mortality for El Paso seems to be significantly lower than that of Texas and slightly higher than that from the New Mexico rate.

Likewise the unemployment fillings for El Paso are lower than those from Texas, New Mexico and the national rate.

Covid-19 and Unemployment Rates by U.S. State, as of May 3, 2020

Using this data may answer the question on whether is it safe for businesses to open back up but there are other issues which may not be so easily enforced, like the wearing of face masks, limiting numbers of people gathered in one place and practicing social distancing. Unfortunately, some national leaders refuse to wear face masks which seems to contradict the call for safety.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.