The status of how the coronavirus is impacting the Rio Grande Valley continues to change rapidly, sometimes from one hour to the next, with all four counties having reported positive cases as of Thursday.
The following is a round-up of what’s changed as of Thursday evening.
HIDALGO COUNTY CASES
Hidalgo County reported its ninth positive case early Thursday, a 32-year-old man from Pharr who has become the first person in the Valley to require hospitalization because of the disease.
Just hours later, however, county officials reported that two more people had tested positive — a 61-year-old woman from San Juan and a 48-year-old woman from Pharr. With the announcement of the two newest cases, the county also said it will shift gears in reporting its COVID-19 numbers. From here on out, numbers will be reported once a day.
The first eight cases include four people from McAllen, one each from Alamo and Edinburg, and two from Mission, including Mission City Councilman Beto Vela.
The county reported its first case on Saturday, March 21— a McAllen woman who had traveled to Las Vegas.
As of Thursday, a total of 230 people in Hidalgo County have been tested, with 148 of those returning negative and another 71 pending, according to the county’s COVID-19 website.
CAMERON COUNTY CASES
Meanwhile, in Cameron County, 10 people have tested positive for the virus as of Thursday. A total of 85 people have been tested there, with 25 returning negative and an additional 50 pending results.
The Valley’s first reported case came from a 21-year-old Rancho Viejo man who had traveled to Ireland and Spain between March 5 and March 12. That man’s test came back positive on Thursday, March 19 after he presented himself for testing at Valley Baptist Medical Center the previous day.
STARR & WILLACY COUNTY CASES
Starr and Willacy counties reported their first cases Thursday, as well.
In Starr County, three tests have come back positive, including that of a 16-year-old who received a test through a private facility.
The other two positive tests were conducted at Starr County’s drive-thru testing facility. As of Wednesday, approximately 130 tests have been conducted since the facility opened Sunday.
Willacy County reported that a 4-year-old child is the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in the rural county. The case is suspected to be from community spread, as the child had no travel outside the county.
WORK SAFE PLANS
The city of Edinburg reported that more than 500 businesses there had submitted “work safe plans” in an effort to continue operating while the pandemic continues. Those businesses whose plans are approved by the city will be issued a “Work Safe Business certificate” allowing them to remain in operation, according to a statement issued Thursday.
“When you see the certificate posted, you know that business is following all requirements to keep their customers and employees safe,” City Manager Ron Garza said in the statement.
STATE, NATIONAL COMPARISONS
Nationwide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed by more than 73,000 since last week, indicating that the virus continues to spread exponentially. The United States now has the highest number of positive cases, with over 1,000 dead because of the virus.
However, the rate of testing here has lagged behind other countries, such as South Korea, which quickly developed the capacity to test 10,000 people per day. In a news conference held at the state capitol Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott said only approximately 21,000 people have been tested in Texas.
“We are administering every test that we get,” Abbott said, adding that the federally-supplied test kits are currently being prioritized in states with higher numbers of positive cases.
And as doctors in hotspots such as New York and Washington State sound the alarm about shortages of personal protective equipment for themselves, and ventilators for their most critically ill patients, Abbott was hesitant to speak about Texas’ own supplies.
After touting efforts by hospitals around the state to increase their bed capacity in the wake of an executive order he issued days ago, the governor clarified that that new bed space will go towards non-COVID-19 positive patients.
He declined to provide figures for how many beds are available for COVID-19 patients, nor how many ventilators are available statewide. ““Some early information shows that we have some supplies to make sure that we will be able to respond to the immediate need,” Abbott said of ventilators.
The governor said approximately 100 people with COVID-19 have been hospitalized throughout the state as of Thursday afternoon.