Valley reports 20 COVID-19 deaths as Hidalgo Co. opts to not reopen bars

Bartenders restock the bar at the Flying Walrus on 17th Street on Friday in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Despite the green light from the state, Hidalgo County will not be re-opening bars just yet.

The county announced Tuesday that Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez decided it would be premature to open up bars again given the ongoing danger of COVID-19.

“I am convinced that reopening bars this week — as Governor Greg Abbott is allowing with local consent — is too risky,” Cortez stated in a news release. “We are making great strides in convincing more and more people to change their habits by wearing facial coverings and avoiding crowds. This is having a positive effect on slowing down the rate of infection locally.”

Cortez’s decision, according to the release, comes after consulting with local healthcare experts and speaking with the mayors of the county’s 22 municipalities.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott allowed bars to reopen statewide, just one day after the Rio Grande Valley was removed from the list of high hospitalization areas.

But Cortez is instead waiting to assess what effect, if any, other reopening measures — such as allowing some businesses to increase customer capacity to 75% of its occupancy — may have locally.

“We continue to see double digit increases in our daily death count and triple digit increases in new positive cases,” Cortez said. “We must bring these numbers down.”

The announcement came on the same day Hidalgo County saw 15 additional virus deaths and 119 new cases.

“We must bring these numbers down by employing safety measures like facial coverings and avoiding crowds,” Cortez said in a separate county news release. “I send my deepest condolences to the family, friends and neighbors of those who died.”

The county’s death toll is now 1,868. The youngest among those who died include two people in their 50s — a Mission man, and a San Juan woman.

Additionally, according to the release, the county’s total case count is 33,614. On Tuesday, 107 people were released from isolation due to the virus, leaving 2,297 active cases.

There are currently 159 people with the disease in local hospitals, of which 61 are in intensive care units.

So far, the county has administered 173,846 COVID-19 tests, of which 139,817 have reaped negative results.

ELSEWHERE IN THE VALLEY

Cameron County confirmed five additional deaths due to COVID-19 in a Tuesday news release, along with 67 new cases.

Of the new cases, 21 are younger than 19 years old.

The death toll there is now 1,052, and the total cases is 23,559, according to the release.

County officials also reported 150 people recovered from the virus on Tuesday, raising the total recoveries there to 21,043.

Also on Tuesday, Starr County officials announced eight new cases of COVID-19.

According to county officials, there are now a total of 310 active cases of the virus there, with 3,362 recoveries so far.

No deaths were reported on Tuesday, leaving the death toll there at 176.

Neighboring Willacy County confirmed two new cases of the virus in a news release, raising the total there to 1,197.

The new cases were of a girl a year old or younger and a woman in her 30s.