State cuts McAllen makeshift hospital in half as hospitalizations decline

McALLEN — Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is dismantling half of the alternate healthcare facility inside the convention center here after treating only eight patients, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said Monday.

“There hasn’t been anybody in there since Aug. 11,” Darling told McAllen commissioners during a city meeting.

“The maximum census since opening is seven, and the total cases is eight,” he later added.

TDEM asked McAllen and Hidalgo County to agree to its proposal to reduce bed capacity by half, Darling said, indicating both governmental entities agreed, despite not having much authority over the issue.

A TDEM spokesman has yet to return a call seeking comment.

“Texas Division of Emergency Management, along with the governor, were the ones who decided to do that alternative care facility,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said Tuesday. “And there were 48 beds to start off with, and now they’re going to reduce it to 24 because of lack of utilization.”

That scale down is happening Tuesday, Cortez said, noting important numbers for the county have also been declining.

“Right now, I’m as happy as I have been for a while because there was, at one time … over 1,000 (hospital) rooms, out of 1,900 rooms, dedicated to COVID,” he said. “That was about a month ago, or five weeks ago, when we were all panicking because of that.”

Hospitalizations on Monday were down to 405, with the number of people in intensive care units also decreasing.

The peak number of people in ICU in July was 304, Darling said. On Monday, that number had been reduced by half to 152.

“Those are the numbers that I pay attention to,” Cortez said. “Believe it or not, we’re doing better because the number of very sick people is declining.”

Still, there will likely be more deaths attributed to the illness.

“I am optimistic. I think I think the number of deaths (has) slowed down, and I think you’re going to see them continue to slow down because there’s a definite correlation between the number of people in the hospital, and the number of people in ICU and the number of people in vents,” Cortez said. “When you want to predict more or less the people that are going to die, unfortunately, it’s a quarter of the number of people in vents. Those are the really, really, really sick, and those are the ones that traditionally we’re losing.”

Hidalgo County’s death toll reached 1,101, with 10 deaths reported Monday, and there are more than 100 bodies still waiting to be buried, Cortez said.