Hidalgo Co. lifts curfew guidance, urges delayed campus classes

A recommended curfew is no longer part of emergency orders signed by Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez on Friday, but the easing of safety precautions comes as the local health authority issued a separate recommendation to delay on-campus instruction at Rio Grande Valley schools for another month.

Hidalgo County Emergency Order 20-015

On the heels of a state announcement that schools in the Valley can delay a physical return to schools until the end of October, Hidalgo County Health Authority Ivan Melendez issued an order Friday recommending that all public and non-parochial private schools delay on-campus instruction until Oct. 25.

Local Health Authority 20-002

“Instruction should be continued through virtual, remote, or distance learning, only,” the order states. “Limited on-campus instruction may be provided as authorized by and consistent with Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance and requirements or as authorized by the school system’s governing authority.”

The order also recommends that all school-sponsored events, including sports, clubs, fairs, exhibits, as well as academic and athletic competitions be postponed until on-campus instruction resumes, unless otherwise permitted by TEA, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), or by the school system’s governing authority.

TEA’s allowance for Valley schools to delay in-person instruction follows an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 17 that allows certain businesses to operate at 75% capacity. However, businesses in the Valley are excluded from that expansion because it is deemed an area with high COVID-19 hospitalizations.

As of Wednesday, hospitals had 277 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and another 58 suspected cases.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Rio Grande Valley officials reported at least 29 more deaths due to complications from the disease.

In Hidalgo County, there were 180 hospital patients with COVID-19, while 77 of those patients were being treated in an intensive care unit, according to a news release issued by the county Friday.

Hidalgo County officials also reported 19 more people died from the disease while another 191 people tested positive for it.

With the additional deaths, the total number of COVID-19 fatalities among Hidalgo County residents is now at 1,630.

“The numbers continue to go in the right direction, but I will not be happy until the fatality rate from this terrible disease drops to zero,” County Judge Richard F. Cortez stated in the release. “I send my condolences to the family, friends and neighbors of those who died.”

The county now has 31,562 total confirmed cases and reports that 2,173 are currently active.

In Cameron County, health officials reported 10 more coronavirus-related deaths, including a man between 50 and 59 years old, five men and one woman between 60 and 69 years old, and two men and one woman between 70 and 79.

The total number of COVID-related deaths there is now at 913.

Cameron County health officials also reported an additional 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing their total to 22,698 and their active cases to 2,819.

Starr County reported it had 12 new cases on Thursday for a total of 627 active cases.

On Friday, Willacy County also reported two new cases of COVID-19 — a man and a woman between 40 and 49 years old. The county now has had a total of 1,178 confirmed cases.