Naxiely Lopez-Puente

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Naxiely Lopez-Puente covers Hidalgo County and Edinburg for The Monitor. You can contact her at nlopez@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4434.

Damage from Hanna not yet enough for FEMA aid

Homeowners affected by Hurricane Hanna last month will not be able to apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency until enough damage...

Hidalgo Co. officials mum on hotels, governor’s visit

Hidalgo County leaders announced Sunday that hotels would begin taking convalescent patients Friday, but whether those plans are on track remains to be seen. On...

Hidalgo Co. orders residents who test positive for COVID-19 to stay at home

Local hotels will begin taking convalescent COVID-19 patients at the end of this upcoming week, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa announced Sunday as the death toll increased by more than 40 this weekend. Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said during a news conference Sunday that over 1,000 new cases and more than 40 deaths have already been reported in Hidalgo County this weekend due to the disease.  Judge Richard F. Cortez also announced he is issuing new emergency orders Monday, despite the fact that he doesn’t have any “enforcement capabilities.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Politics rear head in local COVID-19 response

The response to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in South Texas has devolved into a political firestorm between the governor and local lawmakers as they fight for control over who gets to call the shots. At the heart of the issue: how to create more capacity for hospitals in South Texas and who should be able to make decisions about the health and safety of the community. On one side, Gov. Greg Abbott and his team of experts believe the best way to create hospital capacity in the Rio Grande Valley is to send more medical personnel to the area and to house less critically ill patients in local hotels. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Faith-based organization assesses Valley’s need for field hospital

McALLEN — U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is hoping a global faith-based organization will decide to bring one of its two field hospitals to McAllen...

103 new COVID-19 cases in Starr, Willacy counties

Starr County health officials confirmed 45 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and are waiting for “state confirmation” on 26 deaths, Health Authority Dr. Jose Vazquez said Sunday. Health officials announced the new figures — which bring the county’s total cases to 1,102 — in a news release Sunday.  Of the total cases, 801 “are recovering under medical care” and there have been five confirmed deaths, Vazquez indicated in the news release.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local hospitals request COVID-19 funds from county

The five major hospital systems in Hidalgo County are asking county commissioners for financial support in order to respond to the surge in COVID-19 patients. The Monitor obtained a copy of the letter that five medical institutions — Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, South Texas Health System, Mission Regional Medical Center, Rio Grande Regional Hospital and Knapp Medical Center — sent to Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and the four county commissioners on Thursday.  “From the outset of the pandemic, our health systems have acted early and undertaken a wide variety of measures to prepare for and respond to the public health emergency, including but not limited to, retrofitting facilities, revamping standard operating procedures, innovating new ways to deliver safe and efficient healthcare, and expending significant resources in adding capacity to be able to provide care for COVID-19 patients,” the letter stated.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Valley’s only helicopter ambulance currently out of commission

The Rio Grande Valley’s only helicopter ambulance is currently out of service as Hidalgo County EMS/South Texas AirMed deals with another blow from the federal courts.  On Monday, the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals vacated a temporary injunction the privately owned ambulance company filed against the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in April, when it failed to obtain a $2.6 million loan via the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which SBA administers. “Because, under well established Fifth Circuit law, the bankruptcy court exceeded its authority when it issued an injunction against the SBA Administrator, we VACATE its preliminary injunction,” Monday’s court order stated.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen small business grants in high demand 

The city partnered with its chamber of commerce to distribute $300,000 in grants to 49 small businesses affected by COVID-19, and within a matter of hours, those funds were already spoken for. The McAllen Chamber of Commerce opened its application process at 9 a.m. on June 1, and Jaime Gutierrez, general manager of James and James Formal Wear, made sure he was one of the first to apply for a $10,000 grant. “I was there waiting since 8 a.m.” Gutierrez said.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Hidalgo Co. starts $7.5M rent, mortgage relief program

Hidalgo County commissioners allocated $7.5 million of the coronavirus relief fund to a program that will help struggling residents pay up to two months of rent or mortgage payments.  Commissioners unanimously approved the Mortgage and Rent Relief Program during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.   The program, which was initially going to be called the Homestead Relief Program, will be administered by the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency (CSA). And in order to move it forward, commissioners approved the hiring of 13 additional staff members: eight case study managers, four eligibility workers and an accountant. Read the full story at themonitor.com.