AUSTIN, Texas – The Office of the Governor and the Texas Department of State Health Services on Sunday announced they have deployed 628 healthcare professionals via BCFS to hospitals and medical centers in the Rio Grande Valley.

BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division is a San Antonio-based non-profit partner of federal, state and local government and private industry, specializing in public health and medical emergency response. It was founded as an orphanage in 1944.

The governor’s response came the day after state Sen. Eddie Lucio wrote to Abbott asking for more medical assistance for Valley hospitals and ten days after Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez wrote to the governor to make a similar request.

The Governor’s Office provided this list showing where additional medical staff have been sent:

  1. Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen: 56 staff deployed
  2. Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville: 32 staff deployed
  3. Harlingen Medical Center in Harlingen:  22 staff deployed
  4. Harlingen Regional Medical Center in Brownsville: 28 staff deployed
  5. Edinburg Regional Medical Center in Edinburg: 55 staff deployed
  6. Doctors Hospital Renaissance in Edinburg: 354 staff deployed
  7. Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen: 46 staff deployed
  8. McAllen Heart Hospital in Edinburg: 8 staff deployed
  9. Starr County Memorial: 27 staff deployed last night

In addition to the staff deployed via BCFS, the Office of the Governor says the following requests are in process:

  1. Ambulance strike team assistance and lab technician assistance to Starr County
  2. An additional nurse deploying to Starr County
  3. 32 staff for Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco
  4. Ventilator deployment to the region tomorrow
  5. Ventilator deployment to Doctors Hospital tonight (10)

Other Items:

  1. Ventilators at Mission Regional Medical Center and South Texas Health Systems (3 each)
  2. Ambulance strike teams in Hidalgo and Cameron counties
  3. Epidemiologist surge for the region 

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa’s response

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa pointed out that on June 26, Hidalgo County Judge Cortez sent an urgent request to Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services and the members of the RGV legislative delegation for assistance in the form of additional medical staff and the equipment necessary to provide for the health and safety of the citizens of Hidalgo County. 

Hinojosa said his office immediately engaged the Office of the Governor, DSHS, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).

“I appreciate the requests and tireless efforts from our South Texas county judges and hospital administrators to respond to the increase in the number of hospitalizations due to complications from COVID-19,” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said. 

“We are thankful to Governor Greg Abbott and our state agencies for quickly acting on our requests and providing relief to our region. To carry out our mission to successfully provide the health care needs for COVID-19 it requires everyone at all levels of government working together. We are all in this together, and we can only succeed through collective action where everyone is working toward solving this crisis as one community.”

State Sen. Eddie Lucio’s response

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.

Sen. Lucio issued this response upon learning Gov. Abbott will be sending additional healthcare personnel and resources to the Valley:

“I greatly appreciate the critical steps Texas has initially taken to help the local health care system in my district and to provide direly needed help to our local hospitals.

“Because we are a medically underserved region, which has had its economy devastated by the coronavirus, I reiterate my request to provide our local hospitals priority assistance from Texas. Be it from the state’s allocation of Federal CARES Act funding, unexpended General Revenue, the Economic Stabilization Fund or other sources, the communities that I represent are in need of specialized aid since they do not have the tax base or resources to address the soaring COVID-19 outbreak. Regrettably, as the CEOs of our local Valley hospitals and I discussed as recently as this July 1st, we cannot finance locally the creation of greatly needed isolated environments to expand our capacity or to retrofit, renovate, or build facilities to keep up with the surging coronavirus.

“I join our local hospitals in stating that we are all thankful for the initial support Texas has provided. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to expand at alarming rates and further strains our local public health system, our state must continue to strengthen its effort to support our local hospitals and better protect our families in the Rio Grande Valley. With the wellbeing of the constituents that I represent, I respectfully reiterate my request for the Governor to make available critical financial resources to our local hospitals to address our region’s dire lack of resources and capacity to keep our constituents safe and healthy amid an alarmingly expanding pandemic.”

More grim news

As the 4th of July weekend comes to an end and local hospitals remain at near capacity, one resident has died due to complications from COVID-19 and another 547 people learned they have tested positive for the virus, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said Sunday. 

The victim was a Pharr woman in her 60s. The latest death resulted in a total of 59 fatalities in Hidalgo County after the patient tested positive for the virus.  

These overall numbers include results from late Friday, Saturday and Sunday and brings the total number of known positive cases in Hidalgo County to 5,345. A total of 571 people have been hospitalized with complications from the disease with 144 of those being treated in intensive care units.

“My prayers go out to the family and friends of this weekend’s victim — another tragic loss to this terrible disease,” said Judge Cortez. “As we begin a new work week, please keep in mind the safety of yourselves and those around you. Stay home if possible, wear facial coverings and avoid other people.” 

A total of 235 people were released from isolation Sunday meaning that they have been symptom-free for 10 days, including three days without a fever. Currently there are 3,452 net active cases and 2,449 test results pending.”

Meanwhile, Cameron County health officials have received confirmation of four additional COVID-19 related deaths of Cameron County residents. The individuals were a 23-year male from Rancho Viejo, a 42-year male from Harlingen, and a 68-year old male from San Benito. In addition, there was a 92-year old female resident of The Rio at Fox Hollow. This raises the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Cameron County to 67.

Cameron County has also received confirmation of an additional 87 case reports of COVID-19.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Gov. Greg Abbott at a June 2, 2020, news conference announcing a new executive order related to COVID-19. The new order required Texans to wear masks in public and gave local elected officials the ability to restrict outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.(Photo credit: Office Of Governor Greg Abbott / Gov Abbott screen grab)

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