Hidalgo County cases at 146; 9 cleared

Hidalgo County officials reported that seven more people have tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, for a total of 146 cases. Officials also shared some good news, adding that nine people have since been cleared to leave isolation, including one individual who was cleared Thursday.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez, who called Thursday’s report “encouraging” nonetheless urged residents to continue abiding by social distancing recommendations and the county’s stay-at-home order.

“But we must remain vigilant, Easter weekend traditionally means large gatherings with extended family,” Cortez said. “This year I urge everyone to stay at home with your core family members instead. We must slow the spread of this disease and avoiding gatherings is a key way to do that.”

Thus far, 19 people have required hospitalization for the disease, including five who are currently in intensive care.

The highest number of cases have thus far been reported in McAllen, with 32, and Pharr with 23. The cities of San Juan, Edinburg, Mercedes, Weslaco and Mission have all reported between 11 and 18 cases.

Donna, Alamo and Hidalgo have each reported less than 10 positives; La Joya has reported one, and five people have tested positive in communities so small officials have declined to name them for fear of identifying the individuals.

Further east, officials in Cameron County reported two more people have succumbed to the disease as of Thursday — both elderly women who were part of a cluster of infection tied to two nursing homes.

The victims were women ages 91 and 93 who were patients at the Veranda and Atrium nursing homes in Harlingen. Their deaths bring the number of COVID-19 fatalities in Cameron County to three.

In total, 147 people in Cameron County have tested positive for the disease, the majority of them in the county’s two most populous cities, Brownsville and Harlingen, which have reported 50 and 47 cases, respectively. Forty-five cases have been cleared in Cameron County.

Officials in Starr and Willacy counties have reported no new cases over the last four days.

Meanwhile, as officials throughout the Rio Grande Valley continue to try to flatten the curve, rising numbers and concerns over the Easter holiday have led to several new movement restrictions and safety guidelines.

In the Lower Valley, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. issued a revised executive order Thursday that mandates residents wear facial coverings when out in public.

Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra Jr. issued a similar order Thursday, specifying that facial coverings are required for anyone who prepares, handles, serves or delivers food. The order also applies to anyone who works at an essential business who has contact with the public.

In Hidalgo County, officials from several cities echoed the county judge’s pleas to continue social distancing during Easter.

Officials in McAllen went as far as removing picnic tables and other seating structures from all McAllen parks. And in Weslaco, the city commission held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon where they unanimously approved a 30-day extension of Mayor David Suarez’s shelter-at-home order. That order is now expected to expire on May 9.