BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Cameron County reported 68 additional COVID-19 related deaths on Friday and 57 on Saturday.

However, Esmeralda Guajardo, public health administrator for the county is at pains to explain a new record high was not set. Rather, most of the deaths occurred in previous months and that the county was simply playing catch up with its record-keeping.

“We expect to report over the next couple of days over 100 deaths. These deaths are from previous months,” Guajardo said, at a news conference hosted by Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., on Friday morning, before the new fatality totals were announced.

With the 57 additional fatalities announced Saturday, Cameron County’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic stands at 758. 

Guajardo said the difference between the county’s figures and the state’s figures are about 116, with the state’s figures higher.

Guajardo explained the county was able to revise its death totals thanks to new information from the cities of Harlingen and Brownsville.

“Any time we report a death we have to do it based on an investigation. We have, since the state started announcing numbers, tried to use the criteria they do in terms of reporting deaths. And they do it based on the information on death certificates. This is why the municipalities have been crucial for us. They provide that information to us.”

Guajardo said that, going forward, the county and the state figures for COVID-related deaths could still be at odds.

“Again, the criteria is different. The state reports part one of a death certificate but the locals provide part one and two of a death certificate. Part one of a death certificate is the cause of death. Part two is significant contributing factors to the deaths.”

However, Guajardo said the county’s numbers will likely be very close to the numbers recorded by the state.

“We are still working with the state to get alignment of the deaths they are reporting so we can compare them with ours. But, I do want to let the public know we will see a large increase in the next two days so do not be alarmed. These numbers are us trying to catch up with what the state is reporting.”

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases in Cameron County has now reached 21,654. Of these, 17,077 have recovered.

In his remarks at the news conference, Judge Treviño said Cameron County has been averaging 125 new COVID cases per day, over the last ten days.

“While these numbers have decreased and the situation in our hospitals is much better than it was a month ago, we do not, by any means, want anyone to relax and think that we are past the worse point,” Treviño said.

“Everything we have been stressing since March and especially in the last 90 days continues to stay in effect. We need everybody to continue to wear their masks at all times when outside of their homes. We need everybody to continue practicing social distancing, and personal hygiene, washing your hands regularly. And avoiding crowds and staying home as much as possible.”

Labor Day

Treviño said he need everybody’s “help, assistance and cooperation” over the Labor Day weekend. He said if this year’s Labor Day was similar to those in the past, “I can guarantee you in two weeks we will be back here talking about a surge in cases and again the potential concern with our hospitals and with families.”

Treviño said every individual has responsibility during the Labor Day weekend “to do what is right and needed and necessary.”

He pointed out that in addition to people going out to the beaches on South Padre Island, the Rio Grande Valley would be welcoming many hunters for the start of white wing hunting season. “Again, the rules apply to them just as much as anybody else. If you are going to be in these groups, make sure you wear your mask and socially distance,” Treviño said. 

Treviño said he would be making a few changes to the county’s COVID health and safety mandates. These would include opening the county’s parks and beaches on SPI, but only after the Labor Day weekend was over.

“I wish South Padre Island had followed our lead, initially,” Treviño said. “I think if they had done that, by having the beaches closed over a two- to four-week timeframe, I think we might have decreased the number of cases we had. And the spread.”

Treviño was referencing the closing of the beaches. While the county closed its parks and beaches on the island, the City of South Padre Island did not. 

“They made a decision based on the information they had and I respect that. I don’t happen to agree with it. But I did ask that they consider closing access to the city beaches over the Labor Day weekend. They advised me that they would not do that and they would strictly enforce the regulations and the mandates they have in place with regard to use of the umbrellas and social distance between the umbrellas.”

Treviño said starting Tuesday, Cameron County would reopen some of its parks and beaches to 50 percent capacity.

“We are going to see what happens on Labor Day. I hope that there is no spike or surge, and if that is the case we can continue to expand the opening our beaches.” 

He also said the county’s nighttime curfew would be relaxed, with a start time of 12 midnight, instead of the current 11 p.m. “We are going to see how the next few weeks go. We may remove it.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Esmeralda Guajardo, Public Health Administrator for Cameron County.

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