Hidalgo County on Thursday reported its highest single-day increase in the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 since reporting began here on March 19. 

Some 45 people tested positive for the disease Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 679, according to Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez.

“We have been saying for days that we knew an increase in positive cases was coming,” Cortez said in a news release. “Today’s numbers are a reflection of the growing availability of testing locally, but also a grim reminder that this virus is still out there and can infect us.”

Thursday’s double-digit increase in coronavirus cases follows a pattern of such increases over the past week, with 24 new cases reported on Wednesday, 26 on Tuesday, nine on Monday, and 15 combined over Sunday and Saturday.

Over the last two weeks, from May 22 through Thursday, the county has reported 207 new cases — nearly double the amount of cases reported in the previous two-week period from May 8 through May 21, when a combined 104 cases were reported.

Furthermore, the number of people testing positive has increased steadily week by week over the course of the last month.

From May 8 through May 14, Hidalgo County reported 49 COVID-19 cases. The following week, from May 15 through May 21, the number of cases reported that week jumped by just over 12% to 55.

The rate of new cases continued to jump over the next seven-day period by just over 38% to 76 cases reported in the seven-day period from May 22 through May 28.

Finally, in the seven-day period ending Thursday, the rate of new positives rose by 72% for a total of 131 COVID-19 cases reported from May 29 through Thursday.

The rise in the number of coronavirus cases comes after several milestone events, beginning with the phased reopening of the Texas economy starting on May 1 — when Gov. Greg Abbott revised his emergency executive orders to allow the limited reopening of restaurants, retail outlets and malls — and the Mother’s Day and Memorial Day holidays.

The jump in new COVID-19 cases also comes as the county has aggressively sought to increase testing capacity, including via partnerships with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. 

The university, which operates four free testing sites in both Hidalgo and Cameron counties, announced this week that it had increased its testing capacity nearly tenfold — from 150 tests examined manually per day, to over 1,000 tests per day via automation.

Hidalgo County officials reported that, as of Thursday, a total of 22,537 tests had been administered since the pandemic gained a foothold in the Rio Grande Valley in March. 

That figure represents an increase of 5,816 tests since Wednesday, when the county reported that 16,721 tests had been administered.

Of those, 1,400 remain pending.

The county added that aggressive testing has led to delays in obtaining results, and that “large numbers of new positive cases often reflects several days worth of testing and does not necessarily reflect any rapid increase in the rate of infection.”

County figures show that 34 people remain hospitalized with the disease — an increase of three since Wednesday. Of those, three are in intensive care units.

Additionally, 21 more people were released from isolation Thursday, bringing the total number of recovered to 407. Hidalgo County’s active case count is now 260. 

Eleven people have succumbed to the virus.

Cameron County also reported 21 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number to 841.

Additionally, the county announced that two more confirmed cases have recovered. The total number of recovered cases in the county is now 601.

“Cameron County Public Health continues to work with the three nursing home facilities in addressing the COVID-19 outbreaks,” a county news release read.

The county announced that the Veranda Nursing Home in Harlingen has 33 employees and 61 residents who have tested positive for the virus, of which 11 have died.

The Windsor Atrium in Harlingen has 39 employees and 61 residents who have tested positive, and16 individuals who have passed away.

Spanish Meadows in Brownsville has six employees and 11 residents who have tested positive.

“As part of the COVID-19 action response plan, Cameron County Public Health is conducting epidemiological investigations, contact tracing as needed, and continues to monitor the situation,” the release read.

Meanwhile, in Starr County, officials there confirmed an additional case of COVID-19, raising their total to 43.

The newest case is of a woman in her 50s who was tested at a mobile testing site run by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Military Department, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority.

Of the 43 cases, the county currently has 16 active cases.

In an unrelated case, Rio Grande City issued a statement via its Facebook page confirming that a city employee tested positive for the coronavirus and is at home recovering.

Those who are in closer contact with this employee are in self-isolation as a precautionary measure, according to the city.

“At this time, no other employees have presented symptoms or have come back with a positive test result,” the statement read.