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RGV COVID-19: Hidalgo County Reports 729 New Cases, Releases More Than 1,150 People From Isolation

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Haga clic aquí para leer las últimas noticias en español.

Texas Public Radio is providing COVID-19 updates and information for the Rio Grande Valley and the San Antonio area. You can read news stories in Spanish under "TPR Noticias: COVID-19" here.

Monday, November 23

Texas surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases following a recent surge in cases across the state. There are now 1,100,979 confirmed cases since the onset of the pandemic, according to state data.

Over 71,700 cases of COVID-19 and at least 3,390 virus-related deaths have been confirmed across the Rio Grande Valley's four counties.

Positive tests reported in the Rio Grande Valley amount to about 6.6% percent of Texas' total confirmed case count.

Officials across the Rio Grande Valley are asking residents to plan to take extra precautions during the fall holidays.

In Hidalgo County, where COVID-19 deaths exceeded 2,000, Judge Richard F. Cortez amended safety orders and suggested adjustments for Thanksgiving such as holding a small meal with household members, or a virtual dinner and shopping online the day after Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 20, the county released two Spanish-language public service announcements with warnings and recommendations for adapting Thanksgiving and Black Friday routines to COVID-19.

Hidalgo & Cameron Counties

On Monday, the county recorded 719 additional cases, taking the county's case total up to 40,814.

The county reported four deaths on Monday, including residents of Mercedes, Mission and Pharr.

Two of Monday's reported fatalities were males in their 50s and two were females in their 70s.

At least 2,671 new coronavirus cases were recorded by Hidalgo County last week.

Eddie Olivarez, head of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, pointed to the State of Texas’ changing Epi Case Criteria guidelines and the existing backlog to explain this week’s rising numbers.

“What we’re doing is we are getting all our data and putting those confirmed cases into our system and they have to be accounted for,” Olivarez said in a Facebook Live press conference on Thursday, Nov. 19. "So those older cases are confirmed COVID cases that may be a few days old to as late as July or August because that data is just arriving to us — due to the methodology the state uses — or that we are catching up with some of the backlog."

He said that 162 of the Thursday’s 679 cases reported were new and within the 14-day infectious period. The remainder are “older” backlogged cases processed recently by the State of Texas.

“Let’s not get into the nuance of it being old or new, let’s look at the fact that these are cases that are infecting the community,” he said. "We all can help each other in trying to keep this in check and keep the infection rate decreased.”

Olivarez said Hidalgo County has been operating on "emergency" for at least 260 days.

“We are doing the best we can with the systems and the infrastructure we have,” he said.

The number of net active COVID-19 cases in the community is down to 1,901 because the county released 1,157 people from isolation on Monday.

At least 36,879 residents who previously tested positive for COVID-19 have been released from isolation by the county after being "symptom-free" for 10 days including three days without a fever.

View the latest Hidalgo County COVID-19 press conference on Facebook Live.

There are now 184 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county, including 70 in intensive care units.

During COVID-19's peak in the region, many hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley were at or near capacity. In some instances, patients were flown outside of the region for treatment to cities like San Antonio.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez recently signed new orders extending COVID-19 safety measures. This includes the use of facial coverings, 75 percent capacity for businesses, and 50 percent capacity for indoor events with the exception of churches. Bars will remain closed in the county.

The order took effect on Monday, October 26 and "shall remain in effect until the Judge modifies or rescinds it with new orders."

Rural Hidalgo County residents and those living in Granjeno and Sullivan City can apply for short-term rental and mortgage assistance through the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency if they have been financially impacted by COVID-19. For more information or to apply, residents can complete the application online at www.hidalgocares.org or by phone at (956)205-7058.

In the state of Texas, Hidalgo and Cameron are in the list of top 8 counties with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, Cameron County Public Health confirmed an additional 194 "laboratory reports of COVID-19," including 107 residents of Brownsville, 41 from Harlingen, 16 from San Benito, and 10 from Los Fresnos.

New single-digit cases were reported in Combes, La Feria, Laguna Vista, Los Indios, Port Isabel, Primera, Rancho Viejo, Rio Hondo, Santa Rosa and South Padre Island.

This report covered data from Saturday, November 21st, through Monday, November 23rd.

There are 25,701 known COVID-19 cases in Cameron County. At least 23,064 individuals who previously tested positive have now "recovered," according to the county.

On Monday, the county reported the death of two males in their 70s from Brownsville.

The COVID-19 death toll in Cameron County is now up to 1,112. Cameron County has the fifth most COVID-19 related deaths in the state despite being the 13th largest county.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. recently announced that he was suspending the county's curfew for nonessential activities. Bars still have to close by 11 p.m. under guidelines from the governor. Treviño said that he could change his mind if there's an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Starr & Willacy Counties

According to the Starr County Health Authority, eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported on November 22.

The county also reported 353 active COVID-19 cases and 3,735 recoveries. Fatalities remain at 188.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera announced that he is lifting the county's stay-at-home order during a Facebook Live press conference on Nov. 20.

"Our numbers have been doing a lot better than they were a month or so ago," he said. "I think it facilitates the school districts to be able to use teachers or personnel they might be needing, so that won't be contradicting with the order."

Vera said the county's curfew — 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for those 17 and under without a parent or guardian and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for adults unless there is an emergency — will remain in place.

"It's going to be more of a curfew order," Vera said, with a high recommendation that people stay at home as much as possible.

Starr County's Facebook page will post updates on free National Guard test sites that will be held periodically in the region.

View the latest Starr County COVID-19 press conference on Facebook Live.

On November 22, Willacy County reported two new cases: a female between the ages of 10 and 19, and a female in her 60s. According to the same press release, the county has a total of 1,298 known coronavirus cases. At least 59 of those infections led to fatalities.

Willacy County extended its orders banning spectators at school-sponsored events and activities.

The order issued last week by Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra says those activities include clubs, sports, fairs, exhibitions, and academic or athletic competitions. Guerra's orders say the only people allowed on the premises are those who are necessary to officiate, conduct, or are necessary for the activity to proceed.

Addressing the Thanksgiving holiday, the order advised that Willacy County residents and visitors follow CDC guidelines for gathering.

"CDC guidelines for the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate with people in your household, by hosting a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don't live with you, watching television and playing games with people in your household, and shopping online or curbside."

The order remains in place through December 7.

Veterans in Willacy County are being offered financial assistance for housing and utilities. The Beacon for Willacy Grant is non-income based and provided by the Texas Veterans Commission for Veterans.

The goal is to assist 150 veterans and 50 surviving spouses before June 30, 2021. Assistance is being provided for only one of the following: rent & mortgage, electricity bills, or water bills.

Click here to view an interactive map of available COVID-19 test sites in Texas. 

Data visualizations from public information in the Rio Grande Valley

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

| Find previous COVID-19 blogs here |

Made with Flourish

Beyond the Rio Grande Valley, here are the cases as reported by Johns Hopkins University

Zoom in and scroll to find data on areas across the globe. Find more information at Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource center.

The CDC has provided COVID-19 guidelines in English and Spanish