The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected people differently.
Most patients fight and recover from COVID-19, even as the disease claims the lives of many others.
Furthermore, the coronavirus has affected our daily lives in the Rio Grande Valley in ways both small and large, changing how we work and how we interact with our friends and families.
Here are stories, the first part of a weekly series called the COVID Chronicles, which will share personal stories of how the pandemic is affecting our communities. If you would like to share your experience, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day after day, traveler buses outside hospitals are becoming a common sight in the Rio Grande Valley.
In Brownsville, the buses have been seen for at least two weeks, and photos of them have been shared on Facebook.
They aren’t your ordinary metro buses, carrying people from bus stop to bus stop. These buses travel up and down the expressway and finish their trips at Valley hospitals.
They are transporting healthcare workers who have traveled to South Texas to help care of the sick during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Cora J. McWhorter said she learned that her sister’s coworker had traveled to the Valley to work with coronavirus patients.
“I found out which hospital and hotel she’s at and decided to take her dinner,” McWhorter said, explaining she wanted to express her thanks for these volunteers.
– Laura B. Martinez
TESTS AREN’T PERFECT
Irene Castorena first knew she had the virus when she started to develop a sore throat. As a 25-year-old with no pre-existing conditions, she developed shortness of breath, body aches, loss of taste and smell and fever.
“The sore throat I developed felt very different,” she said. “It did not feel like the one we always get when we are getting sick of a cold. It was something that didn’t hurt when you were swallowing, it would just hurt.”
Irene took an antibody test, which came back negative because her body was still infected and had not developed a sufficient amount of antibodies yet. Eventually, she took another antibody test, which came positive, and three swap tests: a negative, a positive and another negative.
“Even when I had the negative results, I still stayed home and did not go out anywhere,” she said. “It felt strange to us that I received the negative results because I had just tested positive in the antibody test, so I decided to schedule another swap test and this time it came back positive.”
Irene said all of the days she was sick and showing symptoms her husband was with her all the time and never got infected or tested positive.
Even though her husband did not get sick, she still advises the community to take all the necessary precautions because the virus is very real.
“We have to be careful and we all have to do our part, as a community, because we are all connected,” she said. “For only one person that is irresponsible and does not want to follow guidelines like wearing a face mask, a lot of people can be affected.”
Irene said she did not leave her house or have contact with anyone for the six weeks that she was in quarantine. She said she was worried of putting others at risk who may be more vulnerable and may not have a strong immune system to fight the virus.
“How sad would it be to know that just because you were irresponsible, someone died,” she said.
– Nubia Reyna
NEW ENTRIES AT COURT
The impacts of the coronavirus on those who work in the criminal justice system, and those being prosecuted by it, have steadily revealed itself as the pandemic continues.
In mid-March, the courts in Hidalgo County didn’t shut down, but proceedings slowed to a crawl. As weeks changed to months, the courts adapted to video-conferencing and provided hearings to the parties and the public via YouTube or Zoom.
But the impacts are far beyond procedural.
Minute entries in multiple cases reveal defendants have been quarantined and attorneys have missed hearings because of hospitalizations. Court records don’t always indicate why, but with the prevalence of coronavirus in Hidalgo County, one can guess.
There’s even a new entry seen in multiple court cases: COVID CASE.
– Mark Reagan
A COUPLE’S LOVE, HEARTBREAK
In July, COVID-19 took the lives of Dora Garcia Jaime and her husband, A.C. “Beto” Jaime, leaving the Pharr couple’s family of six children reeling.
They were something of royalty to those who knew them: A.C., short for Adalberto Casares, was the mayor of the city during the 1970s and later pioneered racewalking opportunities for Rio Grande Valley youth;
Dora was considered a pillar of faith by her sons and daughters, whose laugh resonated and whose nurturing habits brought balance to a family filled with character.
But perhaps there was no more recognizable characteristic of A.C. and Dora than their love for each other.
“They truly had a love affair that people dream of and people think is impossible,” Doreen Morgan, one of the Jaimes’ six children, gushed about her parents.
Such was their love for each other that A.C. said he’d never leave Dora’s side, and planned to be there during her final moments.
Then COVID-19 happened.
A.C. grew sick and, at one point, needed to be hospitalized.
An ambulance arrived one July day, placed A.C. inside and proceeded to head for a hospital, prompting Dora, who never wanted to be separated from her husband, to run after the ambulance, and fell and hit her head.
While in a local hospital fighting to breathe, A.C. used whatever breath he had left asking for his wife, concerned since she, too, had been diagnosed with the new coronavirus that has already killed nearly 1,500 in the Rio Grande Valley and 168,000 in the country.
He died on July 23. Dora died on July 25. They were both 84.
Though the circumstances are tragic, the legacy they left behind in their children keep A.C. and Dora together in spirit — a bond that Doreen has said will live on forever.
– Michael Rodriguez