Starr County to provide door hangers to promote social distancing

RIO GRANDE CITY — U.S. Congressmen, local officials, athletes and celebrities have taken to practicing and promoting social distancing in response to the spread COVID-19. Now, Starr County officials are trying to make it easier for residents to take part in that too.

Starting Friday, door hangers will be available throughout Starr County so that residents can hang outside their homes.

The hangers read “This home is practicing social distancing for the safety of the community.”

“This doorknob hanger is intended to show the community that you have chosen to care,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, Starr County’s health authority and board president of the Starr County Memorial Hospital. “That you are choosing to show your community, your neighbors, your friends that you have elected to self-quarantine.”

The hangers will be available at the H-E-B pharmacy, the Wal-Mart pharmacy, Starr County Memorial Hospital, county facilities and with the individual municipalities.

Vazquez stressed the importance of “flattening the curve,” or slow down the rate and speed at which the virus replicates.

“So basically, anything that we can do to prevent the spreading of this disease — up to slowing down the rate of which this disease progresses and spreads — is a gain that we need to achieve,” he said. “In order to do that, we have been promoting the self-isolation, the avoiding of going out in an unnecessary manner. We are planning or we are trying to put in place other different tools that will look to achieve the same results.”

The doorknob hangers will hopefully prevent people from knocking on the doors to those residences and therefore help flatten the rate of growth of that virus.

“When everything is said and done and all of these problems pass, we will measure our success in the lack of problems,” Vazquez said. “That’s going to be the way we will know we are being proactive enough.”

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Starr County. Three people have been tested so far with one test coming back negative and the other two still pending.

Vazquez said he did not expect the remaining two tests to come back as positive but said those tests were taken as a precaution.

More tests will soon be available in Starr County with the opening of a drive-thru testing site.

The opening of the site, first announced during a health summit at the Starr County Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, is expected to open sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The testing site, which will be located at the parking lot of the Starr County campus of South Texas College, will conduct testing for as long as necessary.

“This is going to be our centralized facility to collect samples and to test individuals that could potentially be infected with the coronavirus,” Vazquez said.

To be eligible for the test, those who suspect they may have the virus must first be evaluated at a doctor’s office. Only if they fall into the required criteria — set by the CDC and the Texas Department of Health — will they be referred for a test.

For those not experiencing symptoms and simply want to practice social distancing, the door hangers will be handed out on an as-needed basis.

“We do not want this to mean anything negative for that person or for that family,” Vazquez said of those who chose to display the doorknob hangers. “We want people to feel proud that they are showing that they care for the community.”

“This is a way to show you love your brothers and sisters in this community and you are choosing to prevent the spread of this disease,” he added. “That is the message that we want to give.”