Hidalgo County issued further guidance on its policies for the holidays Wednesday as county health authorities confirm seven new coronavirus-related deaths and 172 new cases Wednesday as the local death toll continues to slowly creep toward 2,000.
Thus far, 1,906 people in the county have died of COVID-19 and 34,515 have tested positive for the virus.
The county reported a slight change in hospitalization rates Wednesday, with the number of individuals with COVID-19 increasing by one to 176 patients and the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units going up from 66 to 74.
“I offer condolences to the family and friends of those who have died and prayers to those who are ill,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez wrote in a statement. “We must continue to act with caution.”
Much of the county’s efforts to enforce that caution are being directed at the holidays.
Although door-to-door Halloween activities are still prohibited, Cortez amended an order Wednesday that allows city-sanctioned drive-by celebrations like “Trunk or Treat.”
The amended orders also offer guidance on holidays that include Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving and Christmas, a release from the county says.
“Public safety, particularly the safety of our children, was foremost in my mind as I signed these orders after consulting with local experts and elected officials,” Cortez wrote in the release. “I recognize that these are extraordinary safety measures, but I also am mindful that COVID-19 remains an active and deadly threat to our community. Many computer models are already predicting a rise in cases toward the end of the year. This order seeks to mitigate that rise.”
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that cases in Texas are soaring, reaching 4,856 new infections confirmed at the time and over 400 more than what state health officials reported Monday.
There were also 4,588 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals as of Tuesday, the most since Aug. 26, according to the AP, as the state reached 833,557 cases in total, of which 83,973 were active at that time.
These figures do not account for individuals who may be infected yet haven’t gotten tested, meaning the numbers are likely higher than what can be confirmed.
The county’s guidance aimed at curbing a jump in COVID-19 cases resulting from Halloween suggests alternatives to trick or treating, including carving pumpkins as a household or in a socially distanced setting, decorating, virtual costume contests and Halloween movie nights.
The county recommends alternative activities for Dia de los Muertos that include playing the favorite music of deceased loved ones in your home, making and decorating masks and altars for the deceased, preparing traditional family recipes for friends and family and delivering them in a coronavirus-safe fashion, and holding virtual get-togethers.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas, the county recommends having a small dinner with only people who live in your household, swapping recipes and sharing a virtual supper, shopping online rather than in person, and watching sporting events, parades, and movies in your home.