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RGV COVID-19: Valley Counties Restrict Halloween Activities Due To Virus Risk


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.

Wednesday, October 21

Over 63,200 cases of COVID-19 and at least 3,200 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 7.5% percent of Texas' total confirmed case count, which currently stands at 838,809 cases.

Officials across the Rio Grande Valley are adding restrictions to Halloween events like door-to-door trick-or-treating.

In Willacy County, orders by County Judge Aurelio Guerra prohibit crowded costume parties, indoor haunted houses, and attending festivals outside the community.

Guerra's orders allow for low-risk Halloween activities like virtual costume contests, and scavenger hunt-style searches for candy with members of the household.

Violations could lead to fines of up to 500 dollars. The order is in place from October 23 through November 2.

In Hidalgo County, Judge Richard F. Cortez amended safety orders to include "city-sanctioned drive-by celebrations such as trunk or treat."

Hidalgo & Cameron Counties

On Wednesday, Hidalgo County reported 172 new COVID-19 cases, including 19 cases among youth 0 to 19 years old. Many cases continue to be found among Hidalgo County residents in their 20s or 30s.

The county announced seven virus-related deaths on Wednesday. The youngest fatality of the group was a male in his 40s from Mission. Five of the reported deaths were over the age of 60. The death of a female from McAllen in her 50s was also reported.

The number of known cases has reached 34,515 in-county. According to Hidalgo County officials, there are now 1,906 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the community is up to 2,473 compared to 2,348 reported two weeks earlier on Oct. 6.

On Oct. 3, Hidalgo County announced that County Judge Richard F. Cortez has decided to "not immediately reopen" bars.

After local hospitalizations rates recently improved, Hidalgo County received the green light from the State of Texas to increase capacity in businesses from 50 percent to 75 percent. Judge Cortez "decided to wait" until the effects of expanded reopening efforts can be assessed in the community.

“We continue to see double-digit increases in our daily death count and triple-digit increases in new positive cases,” Judge Cortez said. “We must bring these numbers down.”

At least 30,136 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.

There are now 176 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county, including 74 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.

On Sept. 25, Hidalgo County issued two local orders in response to COVID-19, which both took effect on Sept. 28. County Judge Cortez's latest order dropped the daily curfew but kept guidance on facial coverings and restrictions on gatherings up to 50 percent.

In an official order, Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez advised that schools delay on-campus instruction until October 25. Schools that choose to reopen must provide health officials with a reopening plan and they must report incidents of infection to the county.

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

During an Oct. 16 press conference, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said that physicians, nurses and health officials that were sent to his county to help with a previous spike of COVID-19 cases will now be relocated to Amarillo, Lubbock and El Paso.

“All I can do is hope and pray. We’re being told in the event that we need them again that they’ll be back down here," Treviño said. "The problem again is that the entire state is going through the same situation there’s only so many physicians and nurses and our local nurses and doctors are going to be taxed.”

On Wednesday, Cameron County Public Health confirmed an additional 35 "laboratory reports of COVID-19," including 13 residents of Brownsville, six from Harlingen, and 13 residents of San Benito. Three new cases were reported in Los Fresnos.

There are approximately 23,906 known COVID-19 cases in Cameron County. At least 21,654 individuals who previously tested positive have now "recovered," according to the county.

The county reported two deaths on Wednesday: a female in her 40s from Brownsville and a female in her 80s from Harlingen.

The COVID-19 death toll in Cameron County is now up to 1,072. Cameron County has the fifth most COVID-19 related deaths in the state despite being the 13th largest county.

On Oct. 14, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine is hosted a "joint national virtual forum" discussing the impact of COVID-19 in communities between Texas and New York. The event – organized in partnership with Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) – includes a panel of medical experts and was streamed on Facebook Live.

Starr & Willacy Counties

According to the Starr County Health Authority, nine more people tested positive for COVID-19 on October 19. The county reported 301 active COVID-19 cases and 3,399 recoveries. Fatalities remain at 179.

A drive-thru COVID-19 test site is closing this week in Starr County. The site at the Starr County Fairgrounds in Rio Grande City closes Friday. COVID tests are still being conducted at area medical clinics and at the Starr County Memorial Hospital.

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.

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows 1,202 known cases in Willacy County. At least 54 of those infections led to fatalities.

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 |

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