Rio Hondo ISD: Employee tested positive for COVID-19

Officials say man’s case not travel related

RIO HONDO — The 40-year-old male from Rio Hondo who tested positive for COVID-19 was identified as an employee of the Rio Hondo school district, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the district.

The man remains in home isolation and is not reporting to the district, the release stated.

Due to safety concerns, the district has stopped its grab and go food services program until further notice.

“Although we cannot disclose confidential information related to employees, we can confirm that we were informed by the Cameron County Public Health Department on March 24 that an employee of the district has tested positive for the coronavirus,” stated the press released issued by Superintendent Ismael Garcia.

“Rest assured that I am working closely with the Cameron County Public Health Department to follow all Public Health guidelines and continue to follow its health and safety protocols to ensure the continued health of our employees, students and community,” the release stated.

Also Wednesday, a Rio Hondo man identified himself through his Facebook page as the man who tested positive for the virus.

“I took it upon myself to get tested to protect my son, who is in town from California, and it came back positive,” the post read.

“I can truly say I had no symptoms and still don’t. I am in self quarantine for 14 days. I want everyone to know they need to take this serious and to listen to county guidelines,” the post read.

According to the Cameron County Public Health Department, this is the first potential community-acquired case of the coronavirus.

“Based on the information we have received thus far, the individual has no known exposure through travel or contact with another case,” Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo wrote in the release. “We are continuing our investigation to identify if this is a case of community transmission.”

Rio Hondo residents are taking the situation day by day.

Irma Gonzalez, 17, and Andres Benavidez, 20, stopped by a snow cone stand across Mike’s Supermarket Wednesday and said they are taking the necessary precautions.

Benavidez works at the supermarket and has been practicing safety guidelines such as wearing gloves and using hand sanitizer constantly.

However, he had not bought a mask but decided to after hearing about the confirmed case.

Gonzalez and Benavidez are expecting a son and said they worry about him, not so much themselves.

“I am not worried for myself but my son, that is kind of all I really care about,” Benavidez said.

He wears a double apron at work and washes his hands constantly.

“I know it is going to get worse, but stay safe” he said.

Police Chief William Bilokury said precautions are being taken and there is no need to panic.

“We are not going to people’s houses or businesses for low priority calls. We are taking reports over the phone, which usually isn’t a good idea because you really don’t know who you are talking to but we are doing that right now,” he said.

Rio Hondo City Hall and the police department lobby are closed while the shelter in place order stands.

The Senior Center by city hall continues to deliver meals to senior citizens by curbside takeout. Cones have been placed to enforce social distancing as well.

“We are still patrolling and dealing with bad guys. It is business as usual for first responders, but we are using personal protective equipment when needed,” Bilokury said.

Patrol cars have been placed outside grocery stores to help alleviate traffic.

“Hoarders are going out there, and I’ll put that out there – people are hoarding for no reason. It is creating a problem, but we are putting patrol cars as a visible deterrence. We go by frequently and make our presence known,” he said.

Bilokury said protocol will continue as usual even after the confirmed case.