EDINBURG, Texas – On Wednesday, Hidalgo County surpassed 1,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, just two days after Texas surpassed 10,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths.

So, one in ten COVID deaths in Texas came from Hidalgo County.

Per capita, it should have been ten percent. According to the Census Bureau, the population of Texas is 28.63 million, while the population of Hidalgo County is 862,298. So, one in 33 residents of Texas reside in Hidalgo County. 

Hidalgo County leaders believe the Census Bureau undercounts the population of their county. They believe the true population to be 1.2 million. Even if that is correct, per capita Hidalgo County should not be recording one in ten of Texas’ coronavirus deaths. 

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez believes the high level of uninsured is having an impact. He says when people lack insurance they do not go to the hospital as speedily as those with insurance. 

By the time they get to the hospital they are very sick,” Cortez said, during a recent livestream hosted by Futuro RGV.

Another explanation for the higher than average level of deaths, not only in Hidalgo County but across the Rio Grande Valley is the high number of people with underlying illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

According to UT-Rio Grande Valley’s South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the Valley is about 30 percent, which is 20 percent higher than that of Texas as a whole.

Whatever the reasons, 1,000 deaths in Hidalgo County was a sad milestone, said Judge Cortez. He pointed out that 20 people died due to complications related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,019. A total of 290 people tested positive for the virus. The total number of known positive cases is 23,116.

“I send my condolences to these 20 families for the loss of their loved one,” Judge Cortez said.  “Our medical experts tell us the best way to stop the spread is to wear a mask, use proper hygiene, keep 6 feet apart from others, and avoid any social gatherings of 10 people or more.”

Cortez said there are currently 4,778 net active cases and 385 people were released from isolation on Wednesday, meaning that they have been symptom-free for 10 days, including three days without a fever.

Here are the latest statistics on COVID-19 in Hidalgo County

New COVID-19 positive case total for Wednesday290
Total COVID-19 positive cases in Hidalgo County23,116
Total Number in Hidalgo County hospitals446
Number of hospitalized patients in intensive care units182
Number released from isolation Wednesday385
Total released from isolation17,319
Number of fatalities Wednesday20
Total number of fatalities1,019
Net active cases4,778
Total number of COVID-19 tests administered127,461
Total number of tests that are positive23,116
Total number of tests that are negative103,952

Shelter at Home

Also Wednesday, Judge Cortez announced he was extending his Shelter at Home Order for another 25 days. Much to Cortez’s chagrin, the order is not enforceable. For this he would need the approval of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and that has not yet come.

The new order went into effect on Thursday, August 20, at 12:01 a.m. It remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13, 2020.

“This deadly virus is still a threat and we cannot let our guard down. Staying home, limiting contact and keeping travels to only essential activities has proven to work,” Cortez said. “We are asking the public to continue to practice these safety measures so that we may continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Cortez said the new orders include additional safety measures for commercial covered entities and establishments such as bars, flea markets, and farmers markets.

Here is the Hidalgo County Shelter at Home order:

1.     All individuals currently living within Hidalgo County, Texas are ORDERED to SHELTER-AT-HOME in their residence. It is highly encouraged and recommended that all commercial businesses operating within Hidalgo County, exceptessential covered businesses should cease all activities at facilities that may not be provided by curbside, drive-through, or take-out services.

2.     ALL persons over the age of 65, are strongly encouraged to stay home as much as possible and maintain appropriate physical distance from any member of the household who has been out of the residence in the last 14 days.

3.     There will be a curfew for all persons aged eighteen (18) and over from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are for a medical emergency, to provide covered essential services, or any other purpose permitted under this Order. All persons seventeen (17) and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when participating in essential activities.

4.     To the greatest extent possible, all travel during the SHELTER-AT-HOME and CURFEW within the jurisdiction of Hidalgo to County should be limited to obtaining or performing essential covered services. Travel should be limited to no more than two (2) persons per vehicle for persons obtaining essential services, and four (4) persons per vehicle for essential healthcare or government functions. 

5.     Every person in the County of Hidalgo shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space; wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet (6) of physical distancing from another person not in the same household (see order for exemptions).

6.     Any outdoor gathering of ten (10) or more people is prohibited unless the Mayor of the City in which the gathering is held, or the Hidalgo County Judge in the case of a gathering in an unincorporated area, approves of the gathering. Outdoor areas or outdoor venues shall operate at no more than fifty percent (50%) as underlined in the order.

7.     All commercial covered entities operating within Hidalgo County shall remain at fifty percent (50%) of the total listed occupancy limit. It is highly encouraged and recommended that services be provided by curbside, drive-thru, or take-out.

8.     All bars and similar establishments that receive more than fifty-one percent (51%) of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages MUST remain closed, but may open for delivery and take-out, including alcoholic beverages.

9.     Bar areas within restaurant establishments must follow Minimum Standard Health Protocols relevant to operations of the business or entity services and must not permit customers to loiter at the bar or in common areas, only provide services to seated individuals in “bar” areas, discouraging activities that enable close physical contact in the “bar” areas.

10.  Commercial covered entities, including flea markets and farmers markets, must develop and implement “Health and Safety Practices” that require employees and customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including wearing facial coverings over mouth and nose.

11.  Employers of covered entities should follow Minimum Standard Health Protocols relevant to operations of the business or entity services such as training all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette, not allow employees with known close contact to a positive for COVID-19 to return to work until the end of a fourteen (14) day self-isolation period, and/or conducting temperature checks or health screenings of employees.

12.  Restaurant covered entities shall limit services to curbside, drive-thru, and takeout in compliance with the SHELTER-AT-HOME CURFEW.

In accordance with Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-29, following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violation of this face covering, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.  Each subsequent shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read an Associated Press story about Texas passing the 10,000 death mark for COVID-19.

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