EDINBURG, Texas – Dr. Manish Singh, MD, chief executive officer of DHR Health, says Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, will go down in history in the Rio Grande Valley.

It was the day his hospital started inoculating frontline healthcare workers against COVID-19 with the new vaccine produced by Pfizer.

“This is an historic moment we all are witnessing. Fifteen or 20 years from now we will all look back and we will remember this day as the day it all started to end, the end of this nightmare,” Singh told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Today is the day that it started. It may take weeks, it may take months, but it has started.”

As well as historic, the day was emotional, Singh said, during a press availability at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Reporters had been invited to witness the vaccine shots being administered to doctors, nurses, and others in the healthcare arena that are treating coronavirus patients. 

“Myself being a physician, an administrator and a COVID patient, this is a very, very, emotional moment. Not just for myself, not just for DHR, but the community we serve down here,” Singh said.

DHR Health has been sent 5,200 doses of the vaccine, Singh said, with more on the way. 

“We got 5,200 vaccines. We have the capacity to store more than 25,000 doses of the vaccine. Once we use this current batch of the vaccine, they will provide another 5,000-plus. I hope within this next week or two we will have around 12,000 doses of the vaccine available,” Singh said. 

Singh acknowledged that as per CDC and FDA guidelines, frontline healthcare workers will be the first to the vaccine. After that, he said, it will be other workers at DHR. 

“After we take care of all the healthcare workers, the plan is to provide it to the community healthcare workers because there are a lot of hospital healthcare workers that don’t have access to the vaccine at this time,” Singh said.

Asked if DHR Health plans to administer the vaccine to the general public, Singh said: “We are more than willing and we have the resources to do that. Hopefully, in a month or so, when it is available, and if the state wants us, we are ready to take care of the Rio Grande Valley community. We have the criteria how it is going to be. The people that are more vulnerable, those are the people that will get the vaccine first.”

Asked if DHR Health will provide the vaccine to the entire Rio Grande Valley, Singh said: “God willing, at some point, DHR will be the point to have the vaccine, anybody who walks in to get the vaccine.”

Like almost every other physician, Singh warned the general public not to let its guard down in the battle against COVID-19.

“I want to tell everybody out there this is the beginning of the end. But the end is not going to be in weeks or months. As you know, the disease is raging all over the country. We are using a firehose when the whole house is on fire.”

Singh urged Valley residents to continue wearing masks, to continue to practice social distancing, and “not to be foolish to get into gatherings which may be super spreaders.”

While the coronavirus is raging in other parts of the country, the Valley suffered its spike in June and July. However, Singh warned the virus could come roaring back.

“We cannot let our guard down. We actually had a second spike recently. We are actually going through that. It is not as bad as it was in June and July. What are the reasons for that? We are still scratching our heads. But, what I am seeing is the places that did not get those spikes during the summer are getting the spike now. It is still out there. It is real.”

The number of admissions at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has doubled over the last few weeks. 

“So, it is there. It is real. All people have to do is follow the guidelines to be safe. Maybe for another six to eight months,” Singh said. 

Back in June and July, DHR had 200 COVID patients. It went down to 17 or 18 but has now risen again to 60, Singh revealed. 

“We are now seeking the sicker patients coming in. More people need ventilation. More people need ICU admissions. That is why I appeal to people, be very, very, very careful.”

Families gathering for Thanksgiving did not help, Singh said, and warned the same thing could happen over the Christmas holiday period.

“During Thanksgiving there was a lot of movement of people around the country. Probably that is what we are seeing with this upsurge (in hospital admissions) now. I would like people to celebrate this Christmas at home. Don’t got to any super spreader events. I don’t want to say it but there might be a bigger spike because it will coincide with the flu season and the winter season, a few weeks after the first part of January.”

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