EDINBURG, Texas – A Rio Grande Valley physician has thanked the national media for continuing to shine a light on the coronavirus pandemic in the region.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, appeared on MSNBC TV earlier this week.

“I need to thank you for being so gracious and not forgetting about us down in the Rio Grande Valley,” Melendez told anchor Ali Velshi.

“Our 1.2 million population of folks are still in a pretty similar situation, as we were during the previous reporting. So, I am just grateful that you have not forgotten about us and you have checked in with us.”

Velshi asked if the conditions in Hidalgo County have created the “perfect storm.” He noted that there are a higher than average number of diabetic and obese people in Hidalgo County, which creates the underlying conditions to make it tougher to recover from the virus.

The TV anchor also noted the Valley is also a place where people cannot work from home as easily. And that family count numbers are higher, so social distancing is harder. And that people without an income are desperate to work.

Melendez responded: “We have all the ingredients of creating a unique scenario. We have about 1,000 people dying each day in the United States. With our relatively small population of 1.2 million, we had 50 and the rest of the population had a thousand. The scenario continues.”

Melendez said he had just got in from his rounds.

“I had 34 patients, today; 28 were COVID patients. Of those 28, I estimate about 20 them are just waiting to go to heaven. It just seems like we are getting one set of moribund patients. They are processed and they go through the system. And then we get another group of people that have that same dire outcome.”

Melendez said things have not changed.

“The storm (Hurricane Hanna) was extremely impactful to us. Our numbers today are way undercounted because the floods have put out our information technology systems.”

Asked if things are worse just across the border in Mexico, Melendez answered affirmatively.

“Sometimes when we get frustrated with the problems we have here, we feel so discouraged. Take a brief pause and understand just four miles south of here, their situation is… it’s enough to make you cry.”

The latest COVID-19 numbers make for bleak reading.

Forty residentsdied due to COVID-19 complications, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said Thursday. Another 271 tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of known positive cases to 16,646.

“Each day we continue to lose more of our fellow county residents to this deadly virus. I send my deepest condolences to the families of these victims,” Cortez said.

I remind you to practice social distancing and the use of facial coverings. COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. Face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.”

Cortez said there are6,131net active cases and 1,206 people were released from isolation on Thursday; the highest this week. The 1,206 Hidalgo County residents have been symptom-free for 10 days, including three days without a fever, Cortez said.

Meanwhile, in Cameron County, six additional COVID-19 related deaths were reported. The individuals include 71, 88 and 90 year-old males from Harlingen of which the 90-year old was a resident of Harlingen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. There was also a 62 year-old male from Port Isabel, an 80 year-old female from San Benito and a 76 year-old female from Santa Maria. This raises the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Cameron County to 206.

Cameron County received confirmation of an additional 731 laboratory reports of COVID-19. The day before it was 647.

“I have gotten quite a few calls and messages of concern,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., told KURV News Talk 710. “We want to explain some of the reasons for the spike. We are trying to refine and catch up. We are hopeful these numbers are more reflective of a catch up situation.”

Treviño said he hopes this is the situation and the number of cases are not reflective of what is going on right now. “The hospitals have somewhat stabilized. They are still at capacity but the numbers have not increased over the past couple of weeks.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County Health Authority.

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