EDINBURG, Texas – Dr. John H. Krouse, dean of the UT-Rio Grande Valley Schools of Medicine, says it was entirely predictable that the number of COVID-19 cases would increase once the economy was re-opened.

Hidalgo and Cameron counties are currently seeing a surge of positive tests for the coronavirus. 

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez reported that over two days this past weekend 83 new COVID-19 tests came back positive in his county. This has pushed the total number of known cases in the county beyond the 1,000-mark.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., said his public health department has received confirmation of an additional 57 case reports of COVID-19. This raises the total number of COVID-19 cases to 1,138 in the county. There have also been an additional 16 individuals who have recovered, raising the total number of recovered individuals to 760.

“This is the balance. I don’t think anyone is surprised,” Krouse told The Rio Grande Guardian in an in-depth Zoom conversation.

“We could not stay closed forever. You cannot do that. But, at the same time, you cannot just throw the gates so wide open that there is no restraint. So, I am not surprised by this but I am certainly concerned about this.”

Krouse said the good thing is health professionals have learned a lot about COVID-19 over the past three months.

“We at the university have done over 10,000 tests. We also have a large contact tracing contract with this Department of State Health Services, so we will be tracing all of those people. So, if you can intervene early, diagnose them early, find the people they have been in contact with, isolate them, that is how you keep it under control.”

That said, the coronavirus is going to be around for some time, the medical school dean opined.

“I think we are going to be living with this kind of balance of how much do you open and what is the risk you can tolerate for the next year or so. Yes, I am concerned. I am not frightened. People need to stay safe. People can’t go to the island and just lose their sanity on how they interact with each other.”

By way of example, Krouse cited video of hundreds of young people not observing social distancing and not wearing facial coverings at the Lake of the Ozark in Missouri over Memorial Day Weekend. 

“That is inviting trouble,” he said. “We have lost the part in the people’s minds of what do you need to do to stay safe and reopen.”

A reporter asked Krouse if too many people thought the United States was over the worst of the coronavirus pandemic once the curve of new cases was flattened.

Krouse responded: “It never left. We have been somewhat sheltered in the Valley. Our numbers were actually quite low in the Valley. Because the judges, Cortez, Treviño were really very early in putting stay at home orders in place, before the state was. They were very wise. We are now seeing the wave we were concerned would come without those stay at home orders. So we are catching up. I think that is probably the way to put it. I don’t think we could think we would be in a protected environment forever. So I think this was expected.”

Krouse reiterated that a lot has been learned about COVID-19.

“We have learned a lot more how to manage, how to mitigate, how to test. So, I think we are going to be more successful than we would have been three months ago. People cannot be foolish, they cannot do foolish things. It is about keeping safe and keeping others safe.”

Asked if the Valley has enough hospital beds for a surge in coronavirus cases, Krouse said: “We have enough hospital beds. We have. All the metrics are looking fine. I am on a call weekly with UT System leadership, where we break down all this. We are fine at the moment. We just have to watch. There certainly could come a time where a spike would tax the resources that we have. From all indications at this point, we are not near that.”

Asked for any wrap-up remarks about the Valley’s response to COVID-19, Krouse said: “We are working very hard on defining what the best role for antibody testing is in order to really determine what the prevalence of the disease was and how to move safely in the future. We are in the second innings. We are not toward the end of COVID-19 by any means. People just need to realize we are going to have peaks and valleys.”

Hidalgo County Judge Cortez said the total case count in in his county is now at 1,050. 

“This is not a moment that I like seeing. But it is yet another reminder of how active this virus is. Community spread is alive and well in Hidalgo County and we need to understand the dangers of that,” Cortez said. 

A total of 25,563 tests have now been administered in Hidalgo County. Negative test results for Hidalgo County now total 23,563. There are now 67 people in the hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses; nine are in intensive care units. No one was released from isolation over the weekend meaning the total active cases stands at 524.

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