Valley cases reach 70 as counties urge distancing

The Rio Grande Valley now has a total of 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after several counties in the region reported new cases Monday.

Hidalgo County health officials confirmed 10 additional cases Monday evening, increasing the total there to 38. Cameron and Starr counties also reported increases Monday of six and one, respectively, to bring the tallies there to 26 and four. Willacy County remains at two cases.

“The positive cases come at a critical time during the shelter at home order,” Hidalgo County Richard F. Cortez said in a news release regarding the new cases in his jurisdiction. “During the next few weeks, staying at home will be the safest thing that everyone can do to avoid contracting this highly contagious strain of coronavirus. I’m so proud of all of you who have adhered to this order. I know a lot of hardship on businesses and individuals have resulted from this order.”

Residents from McAllen, Mission, Pharr, San Juan, Donna, Weslaco and Mercedes — ranging in age from 14 to 77 — make up the 10 new cases reported in Hidalgo County. The six additional cases in Cameron County are composed of one Brownsville and five Harlingen residents.

After initially reporting two additional cases Monday morning, Starr County officials confirmed a single new positive test to bring the total there to four. The second would-be case deals with an individual with Starr County ties who tested positive at a private facility in Waco, where they’re employed. That individual’s residence is still being determined, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the Starr County health authority.

Starr County reported the first three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus last week.

Two of those three cases were of people who were tested at the county’s testing site while the third individual was tested through a private healthcare provider. That provider was confirmed to be The Pediatric Care Center in Rio Grande City and the patient was confirmed to be a 16-year-old.

On Sunday, Dr. Daria Babineaux, the owner of The Pediatric Care Center, posted on social media that the patient and their entire family were doing well.

“They are all following strict isolation procedures but all are currently without any symptoms,” Babineaux wrote.

The drive-thru testing facility in Starr County, which is set up in the parking lot of the South Texas College campus in Rio Grande City, began operating March 22.

Since then, 239 people were tested through Sunday and, of those, only the aforementioned four cases have come back positive.