Editor’s Note: The news story published below has been updated to include information from South Texas Health System. We always strive for accuracy in our reporting and are happy to include correct information from the institutions we write about.

EDINBURG, Texas – A newspaper headline in a dollar store tells the story: “400 now dead due to virus in Hidalgo County.”  

The story continues to mention that 44 had died the day before.

Driving through the parking lots of three local hospitals and one funeral home in Edinburg and McAllen, shows strong visual evidence of that mortality.  The site of four refrigerated trailers would seem to indicate that the accelerated rate of fatalities has overcome the capacity of morgues, a fact already well publicized by local and national media. 

Marcy Martinez, system manager of strategic relationships/public relations for South Texas Health System, provided The Rio Grande Guardian with the following statement :

“The information about refrigerated trailers at Edinburg being used as morgues is not correct. We have NOT rented any of those trucks or borrowed any from the county. We have discussed the possibility of having to bring those types of trucks in, but we are not at that point yet.”

At Edinburg Regional Medical Center multiple ambulances wait in the parking lot to admit patients inside them. Like crosstown McAllen Medical Center, the hospital has four large compressors connected to a large orange hose to send air to the top floor. 

Behind Renaissance Hospital in Edinburg, a body was discreetly loaded into an unmarked van, to be unceremoniously transported possibly to a refrigerated trailer at the County morgue or an area funeral home. 

Ten to twelve medical professionals dressed in black, walk towards the hospital to begin their shift. To the east of the hospital a flag flies at half-mast at a Bert Ogden dealership. A blinking warning sign on Business 281 reads “DRIVE COVID SAFE.”

At McAllen Medical Center, an icon of the pandemic featured on CNN, CBS and other national, state and local media, an ambulance waits in the parking lot of Chili’s for space to become available at the emergency room across the street for his suffering patient aboard. Typically those waits can be ten hours or greater.

Martinez, system manager of strategic relationships/public relations for South Texas Health System, told The Rio Grande Guardian: “The ambulances waiting ten hours to drop off a patient at McAllen medical, that is simply not true either. And the white windows are negative pressure covid rooms. The covid units are located on the west wings of the 3rd, 5th and 6th floors of the hospital, far from regular patient rooms. And there is a covid ICU unit we created in an area that used to house the old neonatal intensive care unit. (McAllen).”

Martinez added: “We are focused on patient care and encouraging the community to assist with the surge by wearing masks and following personal hygiene recommendations to curb the spread of COVID. Refrigerated trailers are being used to bring in additional cold air to covid units at STHS Edinburg.”

Ironically, the businesses of medium to high infection risk, shut down prior to may, the gyms and indoor dining rooms,  have full parking lots just like the hospitals and funeral homes. Golds Gym and Buffalo Wings, both in Mission, show that their popularity overrides the fear a younger crowd has of succumbing to a disease with a three percent fatality rate in then county when most of the victims are the aged. 

U.S. Representatives Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela have urged Abbot to “shut down the state” or return to the protocols in force prior to the phased reopening of May that opened the door to current levels and hospital and mortuary facility saturation.

Hidalgo County reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 21,2020. Today there have been 15, 123 cases reported in the county, including 574 new cases reported today. The death toll due to COVID19 in Hidalgo County stands at 456. The Hurricane Hanna event that South Texas has been recovering from has probably delayed the reporting of some cases, as statistics are dynamic and subject to understandable delays.

Gov. Greg Abbot has declared that the Rio Grande Valley is the “top priority” in the COVID-19 campaign and has dispatched 1200 health care professionals to Cameron and Hidalgo Counties. Army and Navy medical corps members are also in the region.

“In all my life, I have never experienced anything so disruptive to life and well-being as this pandemic,” says developer Alex Reguera, frustrated by how the event has impacted his livelihood and family.

“I have lived through several crises in my lifetime-9/11, flu, violence in Reynosa, economic calamities, but this takes the cake.”

It is difficult to argue.


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