Spikes in COVID-19 cases in Hidalgo County this summer can be traced back to holidays, county Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said. Most notably the Fourth of July and Memorial Day.

“When we see the spikes, we usually make a direct association with holidays,” he said. “About two to three weeks after is when numbers go out of control.”

For the past week, the county’s infection rates and confirmed cases have been on a downward trend, and to keep that going, Melendez implores the community to stay home during the Labor Day weekend. The threat of another surge of virus cases is very much still there.

The number of people in local hospitals with the virus are down about 70% from July, the height of the pandemic in the region. Additionally, the number of people in intensive care units is down about 50%.

However, COVID-19 is still very much present in the Rio Grande Valley, Melendez said, so it is not the time for people to put their guards down. On Tuesday, Melendez said that in the last 12 hours he had witnessed the death of two people, and admitted four others into local COVID-19 wards.

“My point is that the problem is still here — it’s not gone, we are not through,” he said.

With Labor Day looming, Melendez is worried that families will defer social distancing measures and celebrate the holiday weekend; he is worried that the progress the region has made in the last month will be erased by Labor Day festivities.

“The pandemic is going to be over one way or another,” Melendez said. “The question is: How do you want it to end? Do you want it to end with 1,000 dead people, or 4,000 dead people in the Valley.”

He said that most cases of the virus in the Valley have been because of family-to-family transmissions.

“This is the time that people should not relax, and understand that there are still over 100 cadavers waiting to be buried,” Melendez said.

He wants to remind the community that the Valley has the highest death rate in the state, and “to remember that every single day, including today, yesterday and tomorrow, there are people dying of COVID in our hospitals, and every single day, we are admitting sick people into the hospitals.”

Staying home during holidays, along with a continuous collective practice of social distancing and wearing masks is how the Valley will most effectively mitigate the spread of the virus, he said. “The spikes we see we believe are related to people disregarding social distancing for whatever reason,” Melendez said. “They wanted to watch the Cowboys play; they wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July; they wanted to go to the beach; they wanted to hang out; they wanted to go to a wedding; they wanted to go to a funeral.”

Melendez’s message is simple: progress is being made; don’t blow it.

“The coronavirus is not gone in the Valley. We are not done yet, and we are certainly at risk at any moment for those numbers to spike up again,” he said.

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Safe ways to commemorate Labor Day weekend during a pandemic:

  • Star Wars marathon
  • Harry Potter marathon
  • Bake a cake (from scratch)
  • Bake banana bread (also from scratch and with chocolate chips)
  • Read a book
  • Write a book
  • Take a nap
  • Practice origami
  • Go on a walk
  • Try running
  • Take a nap or two
  • Family game night
  • Host a virtual game night with friends
  • Build a giant fort out of blankets (then nap in it)
  • Set up a theater in your backyard, with a projector and a bed sheet
  • Play video games with friends