BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The number of positive cases of COVID-19 within the Texas-Mexico border region’s four most populous counties has risen to 277.
Hidalgo County has the largest number, 79. Health officials confirmed 17 new cases on Thursday, April 2.
El Paso County has 78 positive cases of the deadly disease, with ten new cases reported on April 2.
Webb County has 65 positive cases, with health officials confirming five deaths related to coronavirus.
Cameron County has 55 positives cases of COVD-19, with 18 new cases reported on April 2. Seven of the new cases are linked to the Veranda Nursing Home in Harlingen.
Mexican border states
Four states in Mexico border Texas – Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.
According the Mexico’s department of health, there have been 170 positive cases of COVID-19 in the four border states. Chihuahua has 11 cases, Coahuila 62, Nuevo Leon 84, and Tamaulipas 13.
Mexico’s deputy health minister said on Thursday there are no plans for border closures.
“There’s no plan, because there’s no intention to use the border closure mechanism as if it were a useful mechanism for controlling the epidemic,” the deputy minister, Hugo López-Gatell, said during his regular evening news conference.
“Although there’s an expectation in the general public’s view that a physical barrier can be put to epidemics, there’s no scientific, historical demonstration that these types of measures are of any use.”
That said, López-Gatell did repeat a previous plea – that Mexicans resident in the United States do not make non-essential visits to Mexico. He said this would help avoid spread of the coronavirus.
During a press conference on Thursday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., announced an additional nine cases of COVID-19. The increase included seven which are linked to the Veranda Nursing Home.
Of the seven, five are employees, one is a 75 year-old patient from the facility and one is a family member to an employee.
The total number of positive cases among employees at the nursing home now stands at nine. Of these, seven reside in Cameron County. One individual (an employee) is in the hospital and the rest are in self-isolation.
On Tuesday, March 31, the Rio Grande Guardian received an anonymous tip that patients at the Veranda Nursing Home were being moved out of the facility because COVID-19 had been detected.
The Rio Grande Guardian contacted the facility’s administrator Jason Hess. He said:
“I am not aware of any current situation involving the transfer of residents out of the Facility for any reason unrelated to the individual resident’s existing clinical condition and related needs. In addition, we do not have any residents presently in the facility who have tested positive for COVID-19.”
The Rio Grande Guardian did not want to take any chances and contacted Cameron County Public Health. They swooped in and confirmed coronavirus was widespread.
Later on Thursday, County Judge Trevino confirmed that an outbreak of the coronavirus had been discovered at Veranda Nursing Home. The Rio Grande Guardian contacted the nursing home’s administrator again to see if he wished to revise his previous comment. Hess responded: “No further comment at this time.”
Following Judge Treviño’s news conference on Thursday, an additional nine cases were confirmed in Cameron County. Six are female and three male.
Of the females, one is aged 33 and from Brownsville. She is linked to a previous reported case in the county. Another is aged 40 and from Brownsville. She contracted the virus through community transmission. Another is aged 46 and from Brownsville. She, too, contracted the virus through community transmission.
A female aged 22 from Harlingen is one of the nine new cases. She is linked to a previously reported case. And, a female aged 18 and a female aged 21, both from Los Fresnos, have tested positive and their cases are related to a previously reported case.
Of the three new males testing positive for the coronavirus, one is aged just nine months. The baby is from Brownsville and linked to a previous case. A 29 year-old male from Brownsville has the virus and his case is connected to a previous case. A 59 year-old male from La Feria has also contracted the disease. His case is connected to a previous case.
“We continue operations as part of the COVID-19 response plan and are conducting the epidemiological investigations to identify others who may have been exposed and test the individuals showing signs and symptoms,” Cameron County Public Health said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they are received.”
It is recommended the general public in Cameron County abide by the Shelter In Place Order issued by Judge Trevino, and continue practicing preventative measures.
For information on coronavirus, please contact the Cameron County Coronavirus Hotline at (956) 247-3650, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., or refer to the Cameron County Public Health website for more information and updates at http://www.cameroncounty.us/publichealth/index.php/coronavirus/. Additionally, it is encouraged to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/ for daily updates.
El Paso County
The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 78 and health officials continue to advise the community to stay home.
On Thursday, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health reported ten new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 44 females and 34 males.
“We must continue to make changes to protect yourself and your family by staying home and avoiding contact with those who may be infected. We can keep the total number of cases low in El Paso if we all do our part to protect our community,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, of the El Paso City/County Health Authority.
Ocaranza pointed out that COVID-19 is spread through coughing and sneezing, personal contact like shaking hands, and touching a surface with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
He recommended these simple steps to help prevent spreading the virus:
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Stay home and avoid large crowds whenever possible.
· Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Ocaranza said local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with COVID-19 signs and symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical attention, he said.
The City of El Paso on Wednesday amended the City’s emergency directive to further reduce the spread of COVID-19. “Residents are directed to stay in their home and if they must run essential errands they should to do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community, they must maintain a distance of at least six feet from others,” the City stated, in a news release.
The 21-COVID hotline in El Paso is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral, services contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.
The City of Laredo and Webb County on Thursday confirmed the fifth death in Laredo related to COVID-19.
A 97-year-old woman with underlying health conditions had been admitted to the emergency room at Laredo Medical Center and died on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The health department received a COVID-19 positive confirmation on Thursday.
The City of Laredo Health Department reminds the public that the coronavirus can be present in their symptoms even while the person presents no symptoms.
“Some may be asymptomatic, while others may initially have mild to moderate symptoms that can include high fever, cough and shortness of breath. The majority of patients will recover, but some may need to be hospitalized due to complications,” the health department stated, in a news release.
“The majority of our local positive cases have recovered while quarantined in their home. Please follow health department COVID-19 prevention guidelines regarding social distancing and proper hygiene. Persons should stay at home, not gather in groups and cover their nose and mouth when around others.”
Laredo Medical Center issued this statement:
“We are sad to confirm that another patient has died from COVID-19. We appreciate the valiant work done by our caregiving team and we extend our deepest sympathies to the patient’s family and loved ones. It is vitally important for all members of our community to practice hand hygiene and social distancing which are the best ways at this moment to slow the spread of the virus.”
Meanwhile, Laredo health officials have announced they will not be using some test kits that they deem inadequate. The City of Laredo and Webb County were offered 20,000 testing kits from Clear Choice ER. They will not be using them.
The health officials are asking the general public to follow these guidelines:
· Follow the City and County order to stay at home and practice social distancing.
· Wash your hands often
· Wear a mask if possible
· Avoid touching your face
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick
· Stay home when you’re sick
· Cover all coughs and sneezes
· Clean frequently-touched surfaces
Visit www.cityoflaredo.com/coronavirus.html to see an continuously-updated interactive graph of COVID-19 in Laredo.
Visit www.cityoflaredo.com/coronavirus.html for up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
Health officials in Hidalgo County on Thursday announced 17 more people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the county.
County Judge Richard Cortez said the spike was clear evidence that “community spread” has begun. A total of 79 Hidalgo County residents have now tested positive.
Most of the early cases in Hidalgo County could likely be traced to travel in infected areas, Hidalgo County epidemiologists said. However, more recent cases suggest that clusters of new cases can now be traced to those people who had tested positive earlier.
“It’s the natural evolution of the disease,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority. “That’s why it is so important to stay home now. What we do today will be reflected over the next ten days to two weeks.”
Officials have been able to track as many as eight people who had direct contact with earlier infected patients, according to Eddie Olivarez, the chief administrator for Hidalgo County’s Health and Human Services. “We are now seeing more cases because we are looking more.”
Olivarez said each of the 17 people who learned of a positive test on Thursday were ordered to self-isolate in their homes. He said a total of ten people from earlier cases required hospitalization within the last 24 hours. Three of them have been discharged indicating their condition has improved. The mayors where each of the patients live have been notified.
“These growing numbers have long been expected by health experts,” Judge Cortez said. “The same health experts have consistently said that the best way to protect yourself from this disease is to stay home and practice good hygiene.”
Judge Cortez also noted that another four children have tested positive bringing the total number of children who are four years old and under to six. “This is
One of the most”distressing” statistics, Judge Cortez said, is that another four children have tested positive for the coronavirus. There are now six children who are four years old or under that have the virus.
“We need to be especially mindful of our children and our elderly by keeping them at home and away from others,” Cortez said.
Of the 17 new cases in Hidalgo County, none are older than 59 years of age.
Other Border Counties
The Texas Department of State Health Services is tracking the coronavirus by county. Its interactive map tends to lag in reporting new cases. It states Val Verde County has five positive cases; Maverick County has three cases; Starr County has five cases; and Willacy County has three cases.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s deputy health minister.