Faith-based org back in Valley to continue assessing medical needs

McALLEN — A global humanitarian organization came back here to continue assessing how its medical resources can help the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesperson for Samaritan’s Purse said Friday.

“Our team is back in McAllen today for additional assessment as we move forward in our talks with local, state, and U.S. authorities,” Melissa Strickland, a senior communications director at Samaritan’s Purse said Friday via text message. “At this time, it is still not confirmed that we will respond.”

The faith-based organization initially sent a team to tour area hospitals at the behest of U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, July 13, but it later announced it would not be coming to McAllen after speaking to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.

At the time, Abbott’s staff noted triple-digit heat and possible hurricane threats as obstacles for the organization to bring in their resources. The governor’s office specifically noted that the temperature of the asphalt, where the tent hospitals would reportedly be set, surpassed the 140 degree mark on a thermometer.

Gonzalez, who publicly sparred with Abbott over the issue, noted those same hospitals have been set up in locations with similar weather conditions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County health authority, also noted Monday that the plan was never to have the organization set up a tent hospital on asphalt. Instead, he said, local officials planned to house the makeshift hospital inside the McAllen Convention Center.

On Friday, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling corroborated Melendez’s statements, saying the city of McAllen had offered the facility

“We’re still hearing things where there’s going to have a 100-unit here or there. I don’t know,” Darling said. “Those rumors are flying around pretty fast, but I’m not sure what the game plan is from that standpoint.”

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez wasn’t sure either early Friday morning, but he said he was going to be briefed on several issues Friday afternoon.

“I know they’re here, which is good. If they weren’t planning to do something, they wouldn’t be here,” he said. “They realize the tremendous need that we have.”