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Good morning. I called for this press conference to give us an opportunity to get an update on the recent increase in coronavirus cases, and to hear from our medical authority and our healthcare director who are dealign with this COVID-19 matter.

We are also here today to discuss the reality we have been warning you about for the last several weeks. New case numbers are going up and it could not be at a worse time. 

For the first two weeks of this month, the number of new positive cases was in the range of 200 and below. Beginning this week, we saw those numbers jump to 426 on Monday, to 681 on Tuesday, and, yesterday, 679. This is also roughly the same time period that health experts were saying it takes for the coronavirus to incubate. This comes roughly two weeks after halloween parties and election night gatherings of people. Worse, as the nation passed the 250,000 marks for deaths, Hidalgo County also passed the 2,000 mark. 

That is 2,000 of our family, friends and neighbors who have lost their lives to this terrible virus. Yet, we continue to see evidence that people in Hidalgo County who are acting as though this virus no longer affects us. We saw videos on social media of local businesses holding Halloween gatherings that were packed with people not wearing masks.

So, I decided to call a press conference one week before Thanksgiving to sound another warning: if we let our guard down more of us are going to get sick and more of us are going to die.

The real sad part of this is that during the month of November, so far, the vast majority of these new cases have occurred to those in their 40s and below. Those in their 20s represent the largest increase of all new cases. Yet nearly 90 percent of those aged 50 and older are the ones who dying. 

Put another way, the younger people in our community are actively going out, actively ignoring warnings to stay home, and are getting infected and taking the virus home to other family members. That is just tragic.

Every day people are asking the county to close down something else. They are pointing out that crowds are routinely gathering in our cities and they are demanding we impose new restrictions to stop that behavior. I am here to say that no amount of government restrictions are going to save you from ourselves. This must involve people changing their behavior. 

Thankfully, we are seeing more people wearing masks, facial coverings. We know many people are behaving responsibly and yet we know many are not. We are seeing more people starting to behave irresponsibly, too. And that is what is happening right now. 

There was no excuse for all the halloween gatherings and all those people packed in a room without masks. We are now suffering the results. 

We must change our habits. We must stay home if we do not need to venture out. We must wear facial coverings. We must wash our hands. We must avoid crowds. 

If we don’t change our behavior, I fear the affect that Halloween has had on our infection rate will be pale in comparison to Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the nation is suffering tremendously, particularly the healthcare system. We went through that in July. We must do everything we can to avoid that again. 

Our healthcare workers are heroes but they are also exhausted. We cannot let our desire to get out and socialize continue to impact the admirable work of all of our healthcare professionals. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was made by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez at a virtual news conference, held on Facebook on Nov. 19, 2020. The commentary is republished in the Rio Grande Guardian with the Judge’s permission. 

Postscript:


McAllen Mayor Jim Darling spoke about COVID-19 at a McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting on Nov. 19, 2020. He said there would have to be a sweep of the downtown entertainment district in order to enforce social distancing rules. 

Mayor Darling said: “The numbers are ticking up. We were looking pretty good compared to the rest of the state. In the last couple of days we have been ticking up a little bit. We did notice a lot of activity in our downtown area, probably not in compliance with the existing order. So, we are going to do a sweep this weekend with Code Enforcement and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and our police department to try to stem any outbreaks of COVID related to those kinds of activities. I have to, under the state law, approve any large gatherings. We had a request for a concert, 1,500 people, spaced out in mods and we decided that wasn’t appropriate at this time, given the uptick in numbers. It has been a difficult process. And wedding receptions we have told people to really hold off and just have a first anniversary party. It is a lot safer for everybody. Hopefully we will get people to abide. We are watching that closely.”


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