Berenice Garcia

Berenice Garcia covers Western Hidalgo County and Starr County for The Monitor. She can be reached at or (956) 683-4432.

Agua SUD postpones elections until November

The Agua Special Utility District Board of Directors agreed to postpone its May elections, joining other cities throughout the Rio Grande Valley that chose to delay their elections until November amid concerns over the coronavirus. The decision by the Agua SUD board of directors during a meeting on Monday follows recommendations from state officials to postpone their elections in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. This year, three seats on Agua SUD's board of directors are up for election — districts 1, 2 and 3. Read the full story at

Starr County to begin rapid testing

Rapid testing for the coronavirus will be available in Starr County within the next few days. Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county's health authority and board president of Starr County Memorial Hospital, said the county is in the final stages of securing those tests for its drive-thru testing facility. "That will bump the numbers for sure," Vazquez said of those who appear at their facility to get tested. "A lot of people will want to have a quick result and we are going to be capable of doing that in the next couple of days." Read the full story at

State abortion ban leaving patients in ‘anguish,’ clinic CEO argues

The availability of abortion procedures throughout the state remains in limbo following a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to temporarily uphold a statewide abortion ban part of an executive order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the order, patients over 10 weeks into their pregnancy, and thus not eligible for medication abortion, have been turned away while the executive order was in effect, leading to many cancelled appointments over the last two weeks, according to Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health & Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. She noted that Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen is the only abortion provider south of San Antonio and sees about 30 to 40 patients per week. Read the full story at

Rio Grande City, Roma postpone May elections

Voters will have to wait until November to decide who will sit on the Rio Grande City commission as city leaders agreed Wednesday to follow state guidelines, which call for the postponement of the May elections to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Up for re-election are Mayor Joel Villarreal, and Commissioners Rey Martinez and Dave “Chachi” Jones in places 2 and 4, respectively. Villarreal is facing two challengers for the mayor’s seat — Rosbell “Ross” Barrera, a retired Army colonel who now serves as the Starr County Republican Party chair; and Jay Peña, an attorney and business owner who unsuccessfully ran against Villarreal twice, are both vying for the mayoral post. Read the full story at

RGV cities setting up checkpoints to enforce stay-at-home orders

Cities throughout the Rio Grande Valley are beginning to crack down on emergency stay-at-home orders, enacted to combat the spread of COVID-19, by setting up checkpoints throughout their respective cities in response to worries that enough residents were in compliance. The city of Peñitas is among the cities that plan to set up checkpoints, a decision that was prompted by the large amount of traffic they were still seeing on their main thoroughfares, according to City Manager Omar Romero. That observation was echoed by Peñitas Police Chief Roel Bermea, who said they were told there were still too many people on the road at night. Read the full story at

Valley cases reach 70 as counties urge distancing

The Rio Grande Valley now has a total of 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after several counties in the region reported new cases Monday. Hidalgo County health officials confirmed 10 additional cases Monday evening, increasing the total there to 38. Cameron and Starr counties also reported increases Monday of six and one, respectively, to bring the tallies there to 26 and four. Willacy County remains at two cases. Read the full story at

Roma mayor barred from working for state-regulated bank

Roma Mayor Roberto A. Salinas was barred from working for a state-regulated bank by the Texas Department of Banking, according to a news release issued Monday. Banking Commissioner Charles G. Cooper issued a “consent order prohibiting further participation” against Salinas who, until recently, was the president and CEO of Citizens State Bank in Roma. The order specifically prohibits Salinas from serving as a director, officer, or employee of a state bank, holding company of a state bank, or any other entity chartered, registered, permitted, or licensed by the banking commissioner. Read the full story at

RGV doctors plead with public to stay home

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to pop up throughout the Rio Grande Valley with more than 50 reported throughout Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy and Cameron counties. The four counties have continuously reminded the public to maintain calm and each has implemented their own version of a stay-at-home order as a way to control the spread of the virus. For doctors in the Valley, those measures are instrumental, explaining that the only way to “defeating” the virus is by people staying at home. Read the full story at

16-year-old among Starr County’s first COVID-19 cases

Starr County officials reported their first confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday morning. Of 29 tests that were conducted at the drive-thru testing facility in Starr County, two were positive. A third positive case was tested through a private, local health care provider, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county's health authority, bringing the total number of tests to 30. Vazquez held a news conference Thursday, along with Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, to announce the positive results. Read the full story at

Palmview issues stay-at-home order

The Palmview City Council unanimously approved a stay-at-home order that will go into effect 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night. The council approved the order during an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon during City Attorney Eric Flores explained who would be exempt from the order. Businesses that are deemed essential would remain open such as grocery stores; however, the city is asking they submit a plan as to how they will enforce procedures to ensure the safety of employees and the public. Read the full story at