HARLINGEN — Officials are warning residents to take precautions during the Labor Day weekend to avoid spiking COVID-19 case levels that took months to stabilize.
They are cautioning a surge could linger into expected school classroom re-openings late this month that could further stoke case numbers.
Another concern is a spike could help ignite an autumn wave of infections tempered by cooler, less humid conditions amid indoor gatherings.
“That’s our greatest fear,” Josh Ramirez, Harlingen’s public health director, said. “It might be hard to bring the spike down — massive gatherings on Labor Day, school opening up with children on campus and then winter comes along where everybody will be inside and gatherings will be inside.”
On this three-day weekend marking summer’s traditional closing, officials warn against a repeat of the Memorial Day weekend which, coupled with graduations, led to gatherings that spiked COVID-19 cases, driving hospitalization numbers to crisis levels in Rio Grande Valley hospitals.
“It did spike and it continued to spike after that,” Ramirez said. “We hope not to see the same thing. We’re bracing ourselves for that.”
Health officials are urging residents to follow orders limiting gatherings to 10 while stressing residents wear facial coverings while following federal safety guidelines.
“We’re stressing if you’re going to have a gathering keep it to no more than 10 people or less or keep it to a household, wear a mask as much as possible and have hand sanitizer handy,” Ramirez said. “We emphasize not to have large gatherings at parks, either.”
In Raymondville, Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said he’s bracing for a Labor Day weekend spike, warning too many residents are letting their guard down in the fight to control the spread of the virus.
“There have got to be a lot of concerns,” he said. “People forgot there’s a pandemic going on. People were scared for a while. People aren’t scared anymore. They’re socializing.”
Gonzales said many parents aren’t teaching their children to follow safety precautions.
“The younger generation is getting sick because they’re not being told to take care of themselves,” he said.
More children, he said, are playing in city parks, which officials closed to stop gatherings there.
“They’re playing together, there’s no social distancing, they’re not wearing masks,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales urged residents against celebrating summer’s close on South Padre Island’s private beaches behind the long rows of hotels and condominiums.
“They’ll be going to the beach,” he said. “They’ll be there — do you think they’re going to be social distancing? Do you think they’re going to be wearing masks? They forgot there’s a pandemic.”