RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – Physicians in Starr County’s only hospital will soon have to chose which COVID-19 patients they will treat and which ones will be left to die.

That was the grim message from Starr County Health Authority Dr. Jose Vasquez. Interviewed by Dave Brown of Texas Standard, Vasquez said: “We are getting to the point where we are going to have to make tough decisions about who should be getting ventilatory support and a high level of care here or who do we believe is not going to be able to make it alive. So resources will have to be redirected for those that have better chances.”

Dr. Jose Vasquez

Starr County, with a population of about 61,000, has 1,432 confirmed coronavirus cases. Its only major medical facility, Starr County Memorial Hospital, cannot cope, said Vasquez.

Vasquez said deciding who lives and dies is the hardest decision a physician will ever have to face.

“We have to swear a duty to protect every life equally regardless, no discrimination. But here, it is just basically a matter of applying mass critical care guidelines and choosing between people who actually have a fighting chance to come alive of this significant intentness care procedures versus the ones who because they are so sick or aged or have chronic conditions, they are not going to have a chance so we will redirect those resources that have actually a chance to survive.”

In a posting on Facebook, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said: “We are seeing the results of socialization during the 4th of July, vacations, and other social opportunities. Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones. This is what we did not want our community to experience. I am working on a shelter-in-place order, but it is only as good as we make it. We must be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones. I have faith that Starr County will do what is good for one another. We can turn this around in two weeks. We can do it. Stay home as much as possible. God bless you.”

Texas Standard reporter Brown also interviewed Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. Both Boswell and Vasquez are featured in the attached podcast.

Texas Standard is part of the National Public Radio network. Although the Rio Grande Valley does not have an NPR station, NPR programming is being provided on a digital streaming service by KEDT-FM of Corpus Christi. KEDT-FM is media partner of The Rio Grande Guardian.

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