EDINBURG, Texas: It is as though Gov. Greg Abbott listened to Hidalgo County health chief Eddie Olivarez on News Talk 710 KURV this morning. 

Olivarez told the Morning News show that the residents of the Rio Grande Valley should stay at home if at all possible.

Appearing on KBTX later in the day, Abbott said: “There is never a reason for you to have to leave your home. Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home.”

Abbott made his remarks on the day Texas hit an all-time high for new COVID-19 positive cases: 5,000. According to Johns Hopkins University, Hidalgo County is the fourth fastest growing county for new cases, having increased its total by 69.2 percent in one week.

Hidalgo County health officials reported Tuesday that 248 more people had tested positive for COVID-19, a new record high. They also reported that two more people had died from complications related to the virus.

Olivarez’ full title is chief administrative officer for Hidalgo County Health and Human Services. In his remarks on KURV, Olivarez said the number of positive cases was increasing as a percentage of the total tested. A week ago it was 3.5 percent, he said. Today it is 5.9 percent.

“It has to with testing and community spread. We have got to stop the spread. It is the responsibility for every single resident in Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, and Starr counties,” Olivarez said.

“All of us are responsible for this, it is not the county judge, it is not the governor, it is not the president. It is our responsibility to stop it by wearing a mask, social distancing, good hygiene and do not travel if you do not have to travel. Don’t travel.”

Olivarez said he is particularly concerned with a national holiday coming up.

“We have 4th of July coming. I am dreading the 4th of July because everyone is going to get together and have these large barbecues,” Olivarez said.

He noted that family gatherings in South Texas can bring together 30, 40, or 50 people.

“When we used to get together, my in-laws, for 4th of July and New Year’s, it was 120 people. We don’t believe in doing small things in South Texas. So, please reconsider (large gatherings).”

On that point, Gov. Abbott said he was giving county judges the authority to limit gatherings of more than 100 people, if they so wished. 

As for hospitals in the Valley being at capacity, there has been speculation that two of the biggest are starting to divert patients, due to the need to save beds for COVID-19 cases.

Asked by KURV to comment on the hospitalization rate, Olivarez said: “We are at a high percentage. It fluctuates every hour. I can tell you right now, we are near capacity at all our facilities in Hidalgo County and Cameron County.”

In his interview with Brazos County-based KBTX, Gov. Abbott did not sugar coat the seriousness of the situation.

“The first obligation that we have is to make sure that people around the state really comprehend the magnitude of the challenge we are dealing with. There remains a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-129 is really not a challenge,” Abbott said.

“Know this, and that is today, Texas will report an all-time high in the number of cases of people testing positive of more than 5,000. The hospitalization rate is at an all-time high.”

Abbott said the coronavirus is “serious” and it is spreading, in Brazos County and across the entire state of Texas,

“We want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining are distance but, importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there is never a reason for you to have to leave your home and unless you do need to go out. The safest place for you is at your home,” Abbott added.

News of the latest coronavirus statistics from Hidalgo County came from its county judge, Richard Cortez. He reported that 248 more people in Hidalgo County have tested positive for COVID-19. He also said two more people have died from complications related to the virus.

This brings that overall death toll to 25 people while the overall number of known positive cases is now at 2,130.

The deaths involved two people from Mission: a man in his 40s and a woman in her 70s. Both had underlying medical conditions.

“Another day brings two more tragic deaths of some of our neighbors,” Judge Cortez said. “My heart goes out to these people’s family and friends. We must listen to the warnings of medical experts to stop these deaths. Stay home, stay away from people. These are simple solutions to protect not only yourself but your loved ones.”

Cortez said a total of 163 people are now in area hospitals with complications from the virus; 16 of those cases are being treated in intensive care units.

Twenty-two people were released from isolation on Tuesday meaning that they have been symptom-free for 10 days, including three days without a fever, he reported.

There are currently 1,344 net active cases and 2,656 test results are pending out of a total of 35,245 that have been administered.  

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Olivarez, chief administrative officer for Hidalgo County Health and Human Services.

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