SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela sees no alternative to shutting down the economy again in order to defeat the surge in coronavirus cases in the Rio Grande Valley.

Vela made clear his views during a telephone town hall he put together with a stellar group of medical professionals. The event was co-hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce.

Discussing the possibility of another stay-at-home order, Vela said: “That is the only way we are going to stop this disease.”

Vela said he came to this view having listened to medical experts.

“If you listen to all the professionals that are on this phone call, that (a new stay-at-home order) has to be the next step,” Vela said. “It is painful but, if we can do that for two to three to four weeks we will be in a much better place a month from now and then we can get our economy growing again.”

Dr. Joseph Masci

The medical experts on the webinar were: Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Gore and Biden and President Obama’s Ebola czar, Israel Rocha, CEO of Elmhurst and Queens hospitals in New York, Dr. Art Garza, CEO of Valley Regional Medical Center in Harlingen, Dr. Joseph McCormick, founder of the UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville, and Dr. Joseph Masci, chairman of the Department of Global Health at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York.

Masci said the experience of COVID-19 in New York shows there are a lot of long-term implications for hospital systems.

“Now, after we have seen the outbreak come under control in New York, what we are now seeing are the long-term consequences of this in a lot of our patients,” Dr. Masci said.

“This was initially thought of as primarily a severe pneumonia. But what we have learned during our very, very, acute phase of this is that there are a lot of other organs damages. We had many patients requiring dialysis. Many who had clotting problems, strokes, heart attacks, etc.”

After seeing thousands of COVID patients, Masci said New York hospitals are now trying to sift through outpatient needs.

“So, this is a catastrophe for any healthcare system and there may be no good way to avoid it. We just have to anticipate it and be prepared for it. You are going to need to expand the ability to house patients in intensive care settings, if your experience is going to be like anything ours in New York. And as we know now, Florida, Texas, California, and certain other hotspots in the country are beginning to look a lot like New York did in the beginning.”

Masci said New York is currently in a phase of having seen off the first phase of COVID-19 and preparing for the next one.

“We are setting up the longterm services those patients are going to need following the outbreak. This is not like a bad flu outbreak. This leaves a lot of people with disabling illnesses even after they recover. This is a lot to prepare for and it is a lot to review literature on.”


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