RGV COVID-19 April 13-15: Second Death In Hidalgo County, 15 New Cases Confirmed In Cameron County | Texas Public Radio

RGV COVID-19 April 13-15: Second Death In Hidalgo County, 15 New Cases Confirmed In Cameron County

Apr 15, 2020

This Post is Archived: Find the newest information on COVID-19 at the links below.

Texas Public Radio is updating information on COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley here. You can find the latest news from TPR in San Antonio here. Other NPR stations that are part of The Texas Newsroom are also live-blogging, including Houston Public MediaKERA in Dallas and KUT in Austin

The statewide coronavirus hotline is 2-1-1. CDC guidelines on what you need to know and what to do if you are sick with COVID-19 can be found here in English and Spanish, and embedded at the end of this live blog.

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Here's what we know...

Wednesday, April 15

9:30 p.m. — 15 people test positive for COVID-19 in Cameron County

15 new cases of COVID-19 were announced Wednesday night by Cameron County Public Health.

One new case from Brownsville, a 46-year-old woman, was determined to be a result of travel-related transmission. A case of community spread was confirmed with a 45-year-old female from Harlingen. The other 13 cases include individuals ranging between the ages of 25 to 89 and are believed to be linked to previous cases in Harlingen, Los Fresnos and San Benito.

Cameron County continues to investigate clusters from two area nursing homes with a number of confirmed cases.

An outbreak at the Veranda Nursing Home has resulted in 21 employees – plus 5 individuals related to the employees – contracting the virus. 50 residents were infected including 2 who have died. At the Windsor Atrium nursing home, 1 resident has died. 16 other residents tested positive along with 15 employees.

The county now has a record of 254 positive cases including 84 individuals who have recovered. 

8 p.m. — Second person in Hidalgo County dies from COVID-19, 8 more test positive

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez confirmed Wednesday night that a 66-year-old man from McAllen with "underlying medical conditions" has died after testing positive for COVID-19. This is county's second known death in the connection with the disease.

"We should all feel a sense of sadness that another member of our community has died," Judge Cortez said via press release. "My sincerest condolences go out to this man's family." 

8 more cases were reported today, bringing the number of positive cases in Hidalgo County to a total of 225. A total of 39 people have been "released from isolation" in the county after showing no symptoms for 10 days, including three days with no fever.

5:30 p.m. — Facebook LIVE: Rio Grande City's virtual mental health summit

Starr County's Rio Grande City organized a virtual summit addressing "fear, anxiety and mental health effects" of COVID-19 on the community. Speakers include: 

  • Mayor Joel Villarreal LPC
  • Dr. Matilde B. Alaniz LPC-S, RPT-S, CSC, NCC, CART
  • Elma Compean, LPC for RGCCISD Special Services Department
  • Alex Sarabia M.A., LPC at South Texas College Psychological Science Faculty

4:10 p.m. — DHS to waive laws in order to build border wall during the pandemic

The Department of Homeland Security is waiving dozens of laws to build the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic and critics say Texas families and wildlife will pay the price. 

DHS posted in the Federal Register today and said that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements to quickly build the border wall in Starr County. Some of the laws that will be waived include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

The Texas Civil Rights Project tweeted a photo yesterday that shows surveyors on the property of one of their clients whose home is in the path of the border wall.

 

U.S. and Customs and Border Protection, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, awarded a $179 million dollar contract to build 15 miles of border wall in Starr County in early March.

Border wall construction is expected to begin this year in Rio Grande City, Roma, Escobares, Salineno and La Grulla.

Tuesday, April 14

9 p.m. — 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cameron County

Cameron County has confirmed an additional 23 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, most of which were a result of direct links to a previous case. Cameron County release the following information about Tuesday's group of confirmed cases: 

  • 12 males and 11 females
  • Ages range from 1 to 57
  • Cities of residence include Brownsville, Harlingen, La Feria, Rio Hondo and San Benito 
  • 2 cases from travel, 5 cases were connected to community transmission and 16 cases are direct links to a previous case

“As cases continue to be reported, we continue to see links between families,” stated Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino, Jr. in a press release. “Although sheltering in place may be challenging, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that everyone contributes by doing their part in practicing physical distancing.”

Out of the 239 cases reported in the county, 73 have recovered according to Cameron County Public Health.

8 p.m. — 19 more people test positive for COVID-19 in Hidalgo County

The total number of coronavirus cases in Hidalgo County is now at 217 people. 19 more individuals tested positive for COVID-19 according to county judge Richard F. Cortez via press release Tuesday evening.    

Seven patients with no symptoms were "released from isolation" on Tuesday, joining 30 others who were previously cleared. However, 33 active cases are currently in the hospital including 6 patients in intesive care.

3 p.m. — VIDEO: Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez stresses the importance of "community controls" and extends shelter-at-home order

Judge Richard F. Cortez said that the next week to ten days will be critical in assessing whether current efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in the area has been effective, especially after reports of heavy travel over Easter Weekend.

On Tuesday, Judge Cortez also extended the county's "shelter-at-home order" until Thursday, April 30. Additional amendments to the order include a 24-hour curfew for minors, a curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for non-essential workers above the age of 18, and requiring facial coverings in public.

View and share a complete list FAQs regarding the amended emergency order on the Hidalgo County Facebook page in English and here in Spanish.

1 p.m. — Weslaco Firefighters Association calls for improved safety measures

Weslaco firefighters are concerned about the fire deparment's response to COVID-19, regarding the availability of personal protective equipment and staffing issues.

At least 3 Weslaco firefighters have been ordered to use personal vacation or sick time during quarantine efforts, according to a release from the Weslaco Firefighters Association L3207.

Monday, April 13

8:30 p.m. — The total number of positive cases in Hidalgo and Cameron counties has passed the 400 mark, with 414 positive cases combined. 

The four RGV-area counties have disclosed the following counts:

  • 198 cases in Hidalgo County as of April 13
  • 216 in Cameron County as of April 13
  • 7 in Starr County as of April 5
  • 5 in Willacy County as of April 3

Data visualizations are maintained, updated and published by journalist Ronnie Garza on the website https://www.rgvcovid19info.com. Hover over the graph to view values.

8:15 p.m — 21 positive cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Cameron County

Cameron County Public Health issued new numbers on Monday, showing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases by 21 individuals. The total number of cases is now up to 216 cases. Of the confirmed cases, 70 recovered from the disease according to the county.

7:30 p.m. — Eight test positive for COVID-19 in Hidalgo Country

According to the Hidalgo County Judge's office on Monday, eight more individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 198. Positive individuals, along with family members living in the same household, have been ordered by the county to self-isolate.

21 people were also "released from isolation" on Monday after a period of 10 days with no symptoms including three days of no fever, according to the county.

1:30 p.m. — Cameron County Monday update: View video of the press conference here. 

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced at a press conference on Monday that 507 individuals in the county – which has an estimated population of 423,163 according to Census data – have been tested for COVID-19.

As of Saturday evening, there are 195 confirmed cases in the county. According to Trevino, 62 of those confirmed cases have been medically cleared.

Trevino said more than 300 people in Cameron County are under monitoring or self-quarantine. He said COVID-19 cases in the county come from two large clusters.

“The first cluster involves two nursing homes in Harlingen: the Veranda Nursing Home and the Windsor Atrium,” Trevino said.

The Veranda Nursing Home has 48 cases, including 17 employees and 31 residents. Two people at the nursing home have died.

Windsor Atrium has 25 cases, including 11 employees and 14 residents. One person has died. 

Both nursing homes make up about 37 percent of the total cases in Cameron County. Trevino says the second largest group of transmission comes from individuals and their immediate family contacts.

“We currently have ten individual family clusters, which make up 49 of our cases, that’s 25 percent of our caseload, approximately,” Trevino said. “For every individual who has tested positive that averages to approximately four persons who they may have transmitted the coronavirus to.” 

Cameron County asked residents to avoid their normal family routine during Easter – like going to church, Easter egg hunts and get-togethers – because of the risk of transmission.

“Unfortunately on social media we saw many, many families not following the guidelines and perhaps they had been following it up until now, but they felt that this was one day to go ahead and take it easy,” Trevino said. “I’m concerned that the sacrifices that we’ve made over the last month in trying to practice social distancing and practicing shelter in place may have gone by the wayside in one day because individuals did not want to continue to follow what we’ve been doing and advocating for for the last month.” 

Trevino said Governor Greg Abbott called him on Sunday with concerns about the recent spike of positive cases the county had.

“We had a very good and frank discussion,” Trevino said. “I asked him for additional resources for our lab and additional testing for the facilities.”

In the area, UTRGV continues to conduct drive-through testing. Trevino also emphasized the importance of following the county's guidelines and wearing masks when out in public.

Trevnio said that the county is working with partners to come up with statistical modeling, which can show when the virus' peak is expected to take place in Cameron County.

1 p.m. — Starr County issues an extension of local disaster until May 18, 2020.

Starr County's declaration of local disaster for public health emergency has been extended to May 18. The order prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people and violation of the declaration is punishable by a Class C misdemeanor and a fine.

Sunday, April 12

5:15 p.m — Two more people in Hidalgo County test positive for coronavirus.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said via press release on Sunday that two people have tested positive for coronavirus. This brings the number of known cases in the county to 190.

Hidalgo County saw its highest single-day count of 35 positive cases on Friday, April 10, and announced that an additional seven cases were confirmed on Saturday, April 11. So far, there has been one known death directly linked to COVID-19 in Hidalgo County.

Maps of confirmed cases, deaths by county

  

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CDC Guidelines in English and Spanish