Across the Rio Grande Valley, 764 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Wednesday, along with a dozen deaths due to the virus.
Hidalgo County reported 681 new cases Wednesday — a jump that was last broken during the summer surge of cases.
The last time the county reported a daily case count that high was Aug. 26, with 655 new cases reported that day, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard shows.
County officials also confirmed nine more deaths Wednesday, according to a county news release.
The county’s death toll rose to 2,015, with the total case count reaching 38,687.
Those who died, according to officials, include five individuals in their 70s, two in their 60s, one person in their 50s, and another in their 40s.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said Wednesday mitigating the pandemic can not be done with policy alone — it takes a collective effort from the community to follow health precautions.
“We in government can try to put on restrictions, rules and regulations, but we are not a police state,” he said. “And here in the county, I have to rely on 22 municipalities to help us enforce those rules and regulations. So at the end of the day, whether we take control of this disease or not, it really is in the hands of our citizens; what the citizens are going to do, or not do, is going to dictate what the future is going to be.”
That future, he said, without diligence from the community, could look much like the summer surge of cases and deaths in the county.
“July was a very scary time. Who would ever think we could have four, five refrigerator trucks with dead bodies in it,” Cortez asked rhetorically. “That was a very, very scary time. We got out of July by paying attention to the protocols that help us limit the spread — we can take control of this thing by doing the same thing.”
Cortez emphasized the importance of respecting safety measures by younger individuals, since most infections are being traced to the younger population of the county. Nearly 40% of Wednesday’s new cases, 39.6%, are of residents between 0 to 19 years old.
“Every weekend we see on social media large gatherings of people partying — no face coverings, no paying attention to the protocols that keep people safe,” Cortez said. “If we continue to do that, we can’t expect it to stop spreading.”
Bars, under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive order GA-32, are allowed to open at 50% capacity if the local county local judge approves it — Cortez has not.
“Despite this directive, the City of McAllen has been made aware of continued operations in violation of state and local orders,” a separate news release from the city of McAllen stated on Wednesday.
To enforce compliance of the rules, the city’s Code Enforcement Department will be conducting a sweep of Downtown McAllen this weekend, officials said.
Neighboring Mission has the highest number of positive cases with 6,535, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. Still, Weslaco has the highest percentage of its population infected, at 8.5%.
“My plea to the people of Hidalgo is to please think of others before yourself,” Cortez said. “Please take every precaution that is necessary to protect yourself and others from you, and we will get out of this thing.”
Also on Wednesday, 769 individuals were released from isolation, bringing the total number of recoveries in the county to 34,454.
There are currently 174 individuals in local hospitals due to COVID-19, according to the release, of which 71 are in intensive care units.
Additionally, the county has administered a total of 226,506 virus tests, of which 187,267, or 82.7% have returned negative results.
Less than a week away from Thanksgiving, the community’s ability to resist large celebrations and gatherings is going to be tested once again.
Cortez said it is still possible for residents to commemorate the holiday safely with loved ones, observing social distancing measures and taking gatherings outside.
He said he will be eating Thanksgiving dinner with his 21-member family in an outdoor space with tables for each family spread apart.
“We are still going to be together, but apart at the same time,” he said. “We are going to really thank the Lord for our blessings and ask him to guide us and be with us in the coming days, and hopefully all these things will improve.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE VALLEY
Three deaths due to COVID-19 were confirmed in Cameron County Wednesday, according to a county news release, raising the death toll there to 1,106.
The release also reported 74 new cases of the virus, bringing the total cases there to 25,309. Of the new cases, 41 are Brownsville residents.
Additionally, 111 individuals recovered from the disease Wednesday, bringing the total number of recovered to 22,814.
Also on Wednesday, Starr County officials reported five new cases of the virus, bringing the total active cases there to 294.
County officials also confirmed 3,660 individuals have recovered from the virus, and the death toll there stands at 187. Ex
Also on Wednesday, Willacy County confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 in a news release.
This brings the total number of cases there to 1,280, according to county officials. The new cases include two men, one between 10 and 19 years old and another in his 40s, and two women, one in her 50s and another in her 70s.