Willacy County official warns of ‘uptick’ in state numbers

RAYMONDVILLE — After weeks of low COVID-19 case numbers here, state health officials found 16 Willacy County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The uptick in cases comes amid an outbreak that’s infected about 18 city and county officials and employees.

Earlier this week, Frank Torres, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said 11 employees working at the sheriff’s department had tested positive for the coronavirus.

At Raymondville City Hall, two or three employees have tested positive, Mayor Gilbert Gonzales, who received his test results Tuesday night showing he was positive for COVID-19, said.

At the Raymondville school district, Deputy Superintendent Ben Clinton, who tested positive Oct. 13, said a high school staff member tested positive Oct. 15 while a student tested positive Oct. 16.

Meanwhile, a clerk at the county tax office has also tested positive, Treasurer Ruben Cavazos said.

On Thursday, Torres said it was unclear whether the local outbreak led to cases included in the state’s report.

Meanwhile, on Monday and Tuesday state officials conducted COVID-19 testing, which could have led to more positive test results here, Torres said.

On Thursday, state health officials reported 16 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19 including a boy 2 to 9 years old, a female 10 to 19 years old, a woman 20 to 29 years old, a man and woman 30 to 39 years old, two men and two women 40 to 49 years old, two men and three women 50 to 59 years old, a man 60 to 69 years old and a man 70 to 79 years old.

The day before, health officials reported one new case — a man 30 to 39 had tested positive for the virus.

The dates in which the patients tested positive are unclear.

The new cases could indicate an “uptick” in infections, Torres said.

For weeks, COVID-19 cases have been dropping across the Rio Grande Valley and much of Texas after a dramatic late spring and summer surge.

But late this week, Texas was added to a list of 39 states in which new COVID-19 cases are climbing, Torres said.

So far, West Texas and El Paso have been cited as hot spots, he said.

Torres said he believes too many residents aren’t following federal safety guidelines aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

“I think people are getting lax,” he said. “They see the numbers coming down. People let their guard down and we’re seeing an uptick in numbers. This event is not over.”

Now, the county’s total case count has jumped to 1,194.