Over 37,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the Rio Grande Valley's four counties.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 related deaths across the RGV officially surpassed 1,050 on August 4.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez extended the county's Shelter at Home order – which was set to expire on Wednesday – to 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, August 19. The judge is expected to discuss the emergency order extension on a Facebook Live address Thursday at 3 p.m.
"The new orders include additional safety measures for those 65 and older, commercial covered entities, and establishments such as bars, flea markets, and farmers markets," a county press release stated.
“Young people make up the majority of the people who tested positive and the elderly make up the majority of the people who are dying,” Judge Cortez said.
Hidalgo County reported 404 new COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths on Thursday.
The latest group of fatalities include five people in their 40s and 50s, respectively; two males in their 60s and 10 people aged 70 or older.
There are 765 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths – about 4 percent of those who tested positive locally – according to Hidalgo County officials.
The number of known cases has reached 19,103 in-county.
As of Thursday, active cases of COVID-19 in the community are back down to under 4,300 after 736 individuals were "released from isolation" by the county. Overall, 13,710 Hidalgo County residents who previously tested positive have since recovered.
Hidalgo County hospitals are treating at least 745 COVID-19 patients including 266 in intensive care.
Many hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley are at or near capacity and in some instances, patients have had to be flown outside of the region for treatment.
Concerns continue to grow about the quality of care and the number of healthcare personnel available to safely treat cases in area hospitals.
In the state of Texas, Hidalgo and Cameron are in the list of top 8 counties with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has classified the City of Edinburg as a COVID-19 hotspot.
Listen to a "Petrie Dish" special episode: "Tragedy In The Rio Grande Valley: A 'Perfect Storm' For A COVID-19 Outbreak"
On Thursday, Cameron County Public Health confirmed an additional 301 "laboratory reports of COVID-19."
Between August 1 and 3, Cameron County reported over 1,000 new daily cases, setting a new record single-day increase of 1,439 new cases on Sunday.
There are approximately 15,865 known COVID-19 cases in Cameron County. At least 6,014 individuals who previously tested positive have now "recovered" according to the county.
Seventeen additional deaths were reported on Thursday, taking the total number of COVID-19 related fatalities in Cameron County up to 341. The latest fatalities ranged between the ages of 54 and 83. They included residents of Brownsville, Harlingen, Los Fresnos, Olmito and San Benito.
At least 125 deaths have been announced so far in August. In comparison, 163 deaths were reported in the entire month of July.
On a press call July 31, Texas Department of State Health Services Region 11 Medical Director Emilie Prot said that the state has been working directly with hospitals in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, as well as the city of Laredo.
“We’ve been trying to decompress the hospitals with their patients and seeing what we can do to help,” she said.
Prot said the most common symptoms reported to PHR11 on contract tracing calls are headache and fever. She also said that the "majority of our cases is from the 20 to 49-year-old” demographic.
According to Prot, counties like Willacy County and Starr are of greatest concern because "we’re seeing over 40 percent of cases" reported are still positive. These counties adjacent to larger city centers in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, she said, have a high risk of exposure because people tend to travel back-and-forth for work and essentials.
Starr & Willacy Counties
Starr County announced that 89 new positive cases of COVID-19 were reported on August 3. The number of known cases has now reached 2,206 in-county including 1,439 cases "recovering under medical care." Starr County has 22 recorded COVID-19 deaths but 46 reports of more fatalities are still pending confirmation from the state.
About 65 percent of the county's cases are "recovering under medical care," according to data from county health authority Dr. Jose Vazquez.
Starr County's "stay home/stay safe" emergency order is active until Monday, August 10.
Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City – the county's only hospital – has struggled with supply and bed space shortages, and only recently expanded its COVID-19 unit from eight beds to 18.
On July 29, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs offered a direct line of transfer between Starr County and the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, a Level 1 facility which offers specialty services. The VA will accept COVID-19 patients and others who require high levels of care, including patients nearing respiratory failure who are in need of ventilator support.
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows 594 known cases in Willlacy County. Three of those infections led to fatalities. Willacy County issued a public health emergency and closed county offices to the public in an effort to curb further spread of the disease.
Click here to view an interactive map of available COVID-19 test sites in Texas.
Zoom in and scroll to find data on areas across the globe. Find more information at Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource center.