WESLACO, Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott says he will skip the pared-down Republican National Convention in order to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas.

The impact of the coronavirus is being felt most acutely in the Rio Grand Valley, with 17,006 positive cases in Hidalgo County and 12,077 in Cameron County. Hidalgo County has seen 644 deaths while Cameron County has seen 226.

Gov. Abbott was in the Valley this week to announce the temporary conversion of McAllen Convention Center to a COVID-19 healthcare facility. The maximum number of patients that it could handle will be 250 patients. He also announced the opening of Step Down sites, where COVID patients can convalesce after leaving hospital. These will be in Pharr, Harlingen and, soon, Starr County.

Abbott also announced that the Department of Defense has deployed two 85-person U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces to the cities of Harlingen and Edinburg to help combat COVID-19. These teams consists of medical and support professionals who will help meet medical needs at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and DHR Health in Edinburg. 

“As communities in the Rio Grande Valley rebuild from Hurricane Hanna, I urge Texans in the area to be mindful of the threat still posed by COVID-19,” Abbott said. “As we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is vital that we take the necessary action to ensure abundant hospital capacity in the Rio Grande Valley. This temporary facility in McAllen will lessen the strain on the region’s hospitals until we can contain the virus and bring hospitalizations back down.”

Abbott held a news conference in Weslaco at which the county judges for Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr spoke. The attached podcast includes all the remarks made at the news conference, including Abbott’s answers to reporters’ questions.

Abbott announced he would not be attending the 2020 Republican National Convention in a July 31 letter to Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the RNC.

“It was an honor being selected to serve as Chair of the Texas Delegation for the 2020 Republican National Convention. However, as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, my top priority remains focused on protecting the health and safety of Texans. As such, my duties as Governor will not permit me to attend the convention session in Charlotte,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would instead lead the Texas delegation at the convention.

Meanwhile, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez spoke about the 28 residents reported to have died of COVID-19 on Friday. 

“I extend my deepest sympathy to the friends and families who have lost a loved one today,” Judge Cortez said.The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Continue to maintain social distance, wash your hands regularly, routinely clean and disinfect and wear a facial mask.”

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