Coronavirus cases skyrocket by 218 across Valley

Two additional deaths reported

The Rio Grande Valley recorded 218 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, the highest single-day rise yet, along with three more deaths.

Hidalgo County reported 143 new cases Tuesday, and two fatalities. Cameron County reported 58 new cases and one COVID-19 related death while Starr reported 13 new cases and Willacy reported four.

The new Hidalgo County fatalities, women from Mission with underlying health conditions, bring the death toll tied to this 21st century plague to 17 in the county. 

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez delivered the news of the county’s largest daily increase of cases in a somber message on Facebook Live.

“Each one of you is a soldier in this war, and we have equipped you with the necessary tools, the necessary infrastructure to protect yourself as much as you can from getting contaminated with this virus,” he said.

In his address, Cortez implored residents to take it upon themselves to adhere to hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

“It’s in the hands of the people of Hidalgo County. If the people of Hidalgo County say, ‘No mas, no mas, no mas, enough of this. We’re going to take control of this virus, we’re not going to let it get us, we’re going to take all the precautions,’ then you’re going to start seeing the numbers go down. If we don’t do that, then the numbers are going to continue to go up because this is a very contagious disease that spreads very, very easily,” he said.

Tuesday’s increases come about a month and a half after Gov. Greg Abbott began loosening stay-at-home orders and allowing businesses to open back up to the public. Cortez said he sympathized with the governor’s position and with the business community.

“I don’t envy the governor at all. The decision for him to open up our economy was a very difficult one because you can never pick money over the health of people, but you can’t ignore it either,” Cortez said.

However, Cortez said that in his view keeping pandemic measures in place longer would have aided the fight against COVID-19.

“I thought that waiting a couple of more weeks would have helped, because we were beating this virus, at least here in Hidalgo County. I mean, we were down to two people in ICU and I think less than 10 people in the hospital, so I thought we were doing pretty well,” he said.

The numbers appear to support that argument. From May 1 May 16, Hidalgo County reported 87 cases of the coronavirus. From the beginning of June to Tuesday it’s reported 680 cases.

Cortez indicated that Tuesday’s bump in cases was caused in part by expanded testing efforts. He also echoed Abbott’s argument that young people who aren’t afraid of the virus are helping spread it.

“I have to beg you to please, to please, don’t make it necessary for someone to tell you what to do. It’s just something that you can do on your own, something that you can police yourself,” Cortez said.

Over half of Tuesday’s new cases were below the age of 40. About 18.88% of them were under 20, 16.08% were in their 20s, 20.27% were in their 30s, 18.18% were in their 40s, 11.89% were in their 50s, 9.79% were in their 60s and 4.896% were above the age of 70.

As of Tuesday evening, 67 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Hidalgo County, eight of them in intensive care units. In his video, Cortez addressed concerns over the county having sufficient hospital beds and infrastructure, saying that Hidalgo County was still well-positioned but Cameron County, with fewer hospitals, may struggle.

“They’re starting to erode in capacity in Cameron County. Here in Hidalgo County, we still have a good capacity,” he said.

Although Cortez delivered dire news Tuesday, he did express his faith in the Valley to overcome the pandemic.

“We’re gonna survive this thing. The Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo County — we’re good people, we’re going to survive this terrible disease,  but it’s gonna take the efforts of all of us to do that together,” he said.