You have got to hand it to the local leaders. It is an enormous challenge for any local leader to step up and be able to address the challenges that come along with a hurricane. It is even more challenging when you coupe that with a pandemic.
Our biggest concern with the hurricane was the challenge it posed because of the pandemic. And especially in the Rio Grande Valley.
And there is one thing I want to emphasize to everybody in the entire Rio Grande Valley. And it is this. This hurricane has not eliminated COVID-19. COVID-19 still exists in the Rio Grande Valley. It can still be easily transmitted into the Rio Grande Valley. Any type of gathering, of just a few people, provides an opportunity for COVID to spread from one person to another. It is essential that everybody understands the necessity now, more than ever, to take every precaution that you can to make sure that you do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That means avoiding those gatherings, that means avoiding going to bars and settings that put you in close proximity to others. It means staying at home if at all possible.
However, we know that part of the challenge that you deal with in the Rio Grande Valley is the challenge with healthcare. And so I am making several announcements today to help the Rio Grande Valley better deal with the healthcare challenges that are posed by COIVD. We are announcing… first, I want to express my appreciation to Mayor Darling of McAllen because we are announcing that we are opening up the McAllen Convention Center that will be converted into a healthcare facility. The maximum number of patients that if could be able to handle will be 250 patients. That maximum number will be determined by the level of acuity of the particular patients and so it could change. It is intended to be able to address the local needs that exist in the current hospitals. It will be open later this week. It comes with hospital beds, medical equipment and medical staff, in addition to just the location so this is going to be a single location that a large number of patients will be able to go to.
In addition to that there are multiple locations that are either open already or that will be open this week that will provide additional locations for COVID patients to go to – especially patients that are in the recovery mode. They are called Step Down sites. One is in Laredo, that will provide capacity for more than 100 patients. Another is in Pharr, that will provide capacity of 20 people to start, up to a total of 40. Another which will be coming here in the coming days is in Harlingen. And then we are still working on a site to be determined for a facility like this in Starr County.
In addition to that we are also announcing today additional medical staff coming to this region. The Department of Defense has deployed additional medical task forces to communities in the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley to help combat COVID-19. These are 85-person teams that consist of medical and support professionals who help meet medical needs in hospitals and in the communities of Corpus Christi, Victoria, Harlingen and Edinburg. Today, an additional US Army Reserve unit has arrived in Harlingen to support two hospitals, one is Valley Baptist Medical Center and the other is Harlingen Medical Center. Additionally, tomorrow, there will be an additional US Army Reserve unit that will arrive in the Rio Grande Valley to begin assisting hospital personnel at DHR Health in Edinburg. This is on top of the more than 2,000 medical personnel that we have already allocated to this region to assist in the healthcare needs of this region.
The bottom line is this. The State of Texas will work with both our federal and local partners as well as private entities to ensure that every healthcare need of every person in the Rio Grande Valley is going to be met in response to either COVID-19, Hurricane Hanna or any other crisis situation they are dealing with.
Editor’s Note: The above commentary came from remarks delivered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a news conference in Weslaco on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.
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