Cortez: Trump downplaying virus subverts local efforts, Hidalgo County numbers still ‘unacceptable’

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez speaks Sunday, March 22, 2020, during a Hidalgo County Commissioners Court emergency meeting in Edinburg where officials discussed a plan to combat the speed of the coronavirus. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez indicated on Monday that President Donald Trump downplaying the severity of the coronavirus can undermine local efforts to control the spread of the disease.

Trump took to Twitter on Monday to announce he was leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland — where he had been treated since Friday for COVID-19 — to return to the White House.

He claimed to feel “better than I did 20 years ago,” and that COVID-19, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and infected over 7 million in the county, should not be met with fear.

“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good!” Trump tweeted. “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge.”

Asked if the president’s remarks subvert the exhausted attempts to stop the virus’ spread in the Rio Grande Valley, a hot spot which has seen nearly 2,000 deaths as a result of the disease, more than 1,700 of which in Hidalgo County alone, Cortez said that it indeed does.

“I think it does because there are some people that thought from the very beginning and think today that the government is overreaching,” the county judge said Monday. “We know what happens when you don’t pay attention to it. We saw that in New York, California and Italy. It’s overwhelmed our community. I don’t think that doing nothing is the right position to take on this COVID-19 matter. We have to take precautions. We have to be mindful of other people.

Cortez said he would have suggested more precautions be taken when dealing with the virus.

“We all have a right to our opinion, and some people are not afraid of COVID-19, and some people are,” Cortez added. “So to me, if I were the president of the United States, I would suggest that you take all the precautions possible to reduce your possibility of contracting COVID-19, because we all know it gets transmitted from person to person. It affects people differently. Some people don’t even know they have it.”

Hidalgo County reported 26 COVID-19 related deaths and 224 new positive cases of the virus Monday, elevating the death toll to 1,766 locally and 32,630 cases in total. In a news release announcing the new data, Cortez said the numbers “continue to be unacceptable,” and again urged residents to wear masks, avoid crowds and adhere to CDC protocols.

The county’s latest numbers reflect weekend activity, and show a slight uptick in the number of hospitalizations to 183 people compared to 171 on Friday. There are currently 64 people being treated in intensive care units, which are up slightly from the 61 ICU patients also reported Friday.

There were 164 people released from isolation on Monday, raising that total to 28,535. As of Monday, there are 2,329 net active cases in Hidalgo County.

The county has conducted a total of 168,069 COVID-19 tests, and 135,176 have yielded negative results.

ELSEWHERE IN THE VALLEY

Cameron County reported 83 positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday as well as six additional COVID-19 related deaths.

The deaths include one woman and four men from Brownsville, and one man from Harlingen.

The death toll in Cameron County is now at 1,029, and the 83 new cases raise that total to 23,029.

Additionally, the county reported that 48 people recovered from the coronavirus, adding up to 20,350 in total.

Starr County reported three new cases over the weekend, making the total there to 360.

There have been 3,267 people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Starr County, and there have been 171 COVID-19 related deaths.