Local health authorities intervene with bus carrying possible COVID-19 passengers

McALLEN — Hidalgo County and McAllen health authorities made sure that an out-of-state bus carrying potential COVID-19 passengers was safely deboarded after a passenger died on its way to South Texas and northern Mexico. 

The bus departed from an unknown city in Wisconsin and made a stop in Effingham, Illinois on Wednesday after a passenger collapsed on the bus and became unresponsive, a news release from Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez stated Thursday. 

The bus driver called for medical assistance, but the man died a short while later. It’s unclear where the death occurred.  

First responders at the scene alerted Illinois health officials that several other passengers on the bus had been exposed while in their presence, including the passenger’s companion, who later tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized. 

That triggered an alert to local health authorities in Hidalgo County. 

“Once Hidalgo County officials were alerted to the situation and were told the bus was headed to McAllen, they began coordinating with state officials as well as officials with the City of McAllen,” Cortez’s news release stated. “The bus arrived at the downtown McAllen bus terminal just after 6:30 p.m. and was met by officials from Hidalgo County’s Health and Human Services Department, Hidalgo County Emergency Management Division as well as officials from the City of McAllen’s Emergency Management Department.”

The passengers were temporarily sequestered on the bus until health officials checked them for symptoms of COVID-19. 

Several agreed to self-isolate, but Hidalgo County still issued isolation orders.

Several asymptomatic passengers were allowed to continue their travels with the knowledge of neighboring health departments who monitored their movements.

“We acted quickly to isolate the passengers and assess their health,” Cortez said. “Hidalgo County residents should be assured that any passenger exhibiting symptoms of illness were convinced to self-isolate and we see no heightened danger to the community.

“Officials with the City of McAllen, as well as the state, were extremely helpful in this effort and we believe we contained any threat to residents of Hidalgo County.”