BY A. COLLEEN DeGUZMAN AND BERENICE GARCIA

Hidalgo County confirmed seven more deaths due to COVID-19 complications, along with 268 new cases of the disease on Thursday, according to a county news release.

The fatalities include an Elsa man in his 20s, an Edinburg man in his 30s, a McAllen man, San Juan man and Mission man, and an Edinburg woman and Mission woman older than 70. All of whom had underlying medical conditions. 

The death toll in the county is now 56. 

Additionally, the county has now seen a total of 4,520 cases of the coronavirus. Eighty-three individuals were released from isolation, leaving 3,203 active cases.

It was also reported that as of Thursday, 451 people are hospitalized with 104 in intensive care units — a 49.8% increase in hospitalizations and 285% increase in ICU patients from Wednesday.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, said the lack of space necessitated that patients be coded while still in the emergency department or even in ambulances.

“There’s no space; if you go in the emergency department, you see people with COVID all over the place,” Melendez said. “They’re everywhere so people are walking around with the full body suits and masks and visors in the emergency room department.

“When you see somebody’s life being coded in an ambulance, you’ve got issues.”

The county has now administered a total of 49,321 COVID-19 tests, of which, 2,771 results are still pending. 

“As we approach the 4th of July holiday, we must not let our guard down,” county Judge Richard F. Cortez wrote in the release. “This is the time to stay vigilant and wear facial coverings as Governor Greg Abbott has ordered all Texans to do while out in public. I want to send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of these seven people. They will be greatly missed.” 

Also on Thursday, Cameron County confirmed four more deaths due to the coronavirus, according to a county news release, raising the death toll there to 60. 

The individuals were 56, 58, 80 and 65. All of whom were men.

The 65-year-old was a resident of The Rio at Fox Hollow nursing home in Brownsville and the third death linked there, where 34 employees and 31 residents have contracted COVID-19.

The county also reported 101 new cases of COVID-19, bumping the total number of cases seen there to 2,611.

On Thursday, 70 individuals recovered from the disease, leaving 904 active cases. So far, 1,707 individuals in the county have recovered from the coronavirus.

In Starr County, there were 81 new cases of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county health authority.

This came on the day that Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring all Texan counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth in public. 

Every Texan in a county that meets that standard must cover their face “when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person in the same household,” Abbott said in a news release. 

The order does not apply to children under the age of 10, individuals with medical conditions or disabilities that may prevent wearing a face covering.

Additionally, people eating or drinking, or seated at a restaurant to eat or drink, exercising or engaging in physical activities outdoors are permitted for temporary removal of facial coverings.

Individual drivers and passengers who are part of the same household as the driver are also allowed to remove their facial coverings. 

The proclamation also makes it mandatory for people to not congregate in groups of more than 10 people, and maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

Law enforcement entities, however, are not allowed to detain, arrest or confine anyone in jail for violating orders.

Verbal or written warnings are expected for first-time violators, and a fine of no more than $250 for second-time violations and each subsequent violation.

cdeguzman@themonitor.com

bereniceg@themonitor.com