Spikes continue in Valley even as COVID-19 cases trend lower

By the numbers

Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com A nurse works in a COVID-19 unit at DHR Health in Edinburg on Monday, July 27, 2020.

The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported daily is on a downward trend statewide, and while the same is true for the Rio Grande Valley, the figures are relatively low and there are still sudden spikes. This only underscores the overall uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Hidalgo County averaged 322 new cases per day over the last two weeks, from Aug. 24 until Sept. 4.

At the beginning of that period, on Aug. 24, the county reported 675 new cases, and then reported 191 new cases on Sept. 4, according to the reports issued by the county.

But that small period of time had a peak of its own, on Aug. 25, when the county reported 782 new cases. In the following two days, the county reported 655 and 471 new cases, respectively, before the numbers plunged.

On Aug. 29, the county reported 175 new cases. Since then, the daily case numbers ranged from a low of 130 to a high of 270.

July was the roughest month in the pandemic for the state but also for the Valley in particular, which dealt with a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a strain on resources.

It was during that month when Hidalgo County had three days in which they reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day.

On July 11 the county reported 1,274 new cases and then 1,248 new cases on July 18.

The peak was on July 20 when the county reported 1,320 new cases that day.

In Cameron County, the daily cases from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4 averaged 194.8.

The peak for the county was at the beginning of August when the county reported more than 1,000 daily cases for three consecutive days — Aug. 1 when they reported 1,106 cases; Aug. 2 when they reported 1,429 cases; and Aug. 3 when the county reported 1,265 new cases.

However, the number dropped sharply the following day when they reported 337 new cases and the daily numbers remained consistently low for the remainder of the month with the exception of Aug. 24 when they reported 637 cases.

During the last two weeks, the daily case numbers for Starr County remained relatively low until a sudden spike on Aug. 28 when the county had 145 new cases, according to DSHS.

The agency recently reported that because of a statewide backlog on test results, there were 349 previously unreported cases in Starr County. Following the news, county officials stated that of those cases, 191 were missing from their reports.

However, those previously unreported cases were not added as new cases but simply added to the overall total and therefore would explain the sudden jump on Aug. 28.

What’s also important to note is that the daily Starr County cases reported by DSHS don’t exactly match what the county reports directly to the public.

Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com
Used face shields hang on the wall on Monday, July 27, 2020, to be cleaned and reused at the COVID-19 unit at DHR Health in Edinburg.

For instance, the county only reported 58 new cases on Aug. 28 instead of the 145 cases and on Aug. 27, the county reported 24 new cases when DSHS logged only 11 for that day.

Going by DSHS, the county averaged 18.8 cases per day from Aug. 24 until Sept. 4, and that’s including the Aug. 28 outlier.

That Aug. 28 report of 145 new cases matches their previous record on July 21.

Willacy County averaged 10.5 new cases per day from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, although the county did report a high of 46 new cases on that last day.

Their peak was in also in mid-July. They reported 58 new cases on July 12 and 54 new cases on July 15.

Despite a slight decrease in cases, health officials have appeared hesitant to declare that the COVID-19 situation in the Valley is improving, especially with Labor Day weekend and other occasions that people may have to gather with one another, increasing the chances that the virus might spread.

Indeed, officials have continued to urge residents to stay away from large gatherings and continue to take precautionary measures, such as wearing masks and staying 6 feet away from others.

Time will tell if residents adhered to those warnings, and if the recent past has been any indication, that time will likely be around two weeks from now.

bereniceg@themonitor.com