Virus protection

EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez met with 18 area mayors, or their representatives, to share details regarding the county’s state of preparedness for the coronavirus.

Cortez met with the mayors and representatives on Monday afternoon in the Commissioners Court Chambers, located at 100 E. Cano Street, in Edinburg, for a closed-door discussion.

“Essentially it was laid out to answer any questions that the municipalities had,” said Carlos Sanchez, spokesman for Cortez. “While certainly the larger municipalities were present, we really had the idea of dealing with smaller municipalities, which have fewer resources.”

Cortez is also the director of emergency management for the county, and would implement any response should a case of COVID-19 or coronavirus be diagnosed in Hidalgo County.Sanchez said the meeting was an opportunity to inform local municipalities that the county remains in constant communication with state and federal officials regarding COVID-19, as well as answer questions and share information about available resources.

“The larger cities kind of know the process, particularly when you start dealing with FEMA and the CDC,” Sanchez said. “There’s a level of emergency preparedness in which you need to start accounting for all your expenditures related to that preparedness because the federal government will often reimburse you at the local level. As you know, Congress, I think last week, just passed an emergency bill for $8 billion. Well in order to get any part of that money, you need to begin the accounting process that specifically delineates, ‘This expenditure had to do with emergency preparedness relating to coronavirus.’ That was kind of the general overview.”

In a new release, Cortez emphasized that even though there have been 12 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Texas, there are no confirmed cases in the county.

During the meeting, Eddie Olivarez, chief administrative officer for Hidalgo County Health and Human Services, explained that the county is currently at a Level 3 operation for monitoring and response.

He went on to explain that Level 1 is the most heightened and only occurs when Cortez declares a health emergency, which would trigger a full-time emergency operations center that monitors developments around the clock.

The county anticipates having more meetings such as the one held Monday.

“They are eager for information; they are eager for guidance; we’re eager to provide it. On that note, I believe Judge Cortez’s intent was successful,” Sanchez said.