EDINBURG, TEXAS – The president-elect of the Texas Medical Association has made a plea to Rio Grande Valley residents – please adhere to social distancing guidelines during Labor Day weekend.

Dr. Linda Villarreal, an internist from Edinburg, called on the general public to learn from the mistakes of Memorial Day and the 4th of July.

“After Memorial Day in May we had a spike, a significant spike. After the 4th of July we had our own pandemic in the Valley,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said she has friends in New York City, Ohio, and California who were calling her to ask what was going on in the Valley.

“All of them were asking me, what is going on, Hidalgo County, the Rio Grande Valley, is in the national news. And it indeed it was, based on the fact that we went from a really low number of (COVID-19) cases between March and May and then suddenly we saw what was really defined as a pandemic,” Villarreal said. 

“We had a surge. It was like a tsunami of infections. The only thing that could explain that sudden increase in cases and severe illness, and, unfortunately, deaths, was these two holidays.”

Villarreal pointed out that the Valley’s tradition is to have large gatherings at holiday time. 

“In our culture, here in the Valley, families gather and celebrate. Needless to say, our culture, which I love dearly, is, any excuse for a celebration.”

Villarreal pointed out that these gatherings cane comprise, 20 or 30 family members coming together.

“If one out of the 28 is a carrier they could easily infect grandma or a baby that is three years old. That is how it spreads in the Valley.”

Villarreal said she made a trip to Port Isabel and South Padre Island in the middle of July. 

“I did not get down from the car. I was in shock as to how many people were out there on the beach, so close together. There is no way they could be doing social distancing.”

Villarreal said she will not even go close to the island over Labor Day weekend. 

“Because I know there will be the same problem again. Unfortunately, I think it is that young generation who feel they are strong and resistant to illness. They are the ones that are going to be out there, not adhering to social distancing, not wearing a mask.”

Villarreal added: “It is a warning but it is more of an ask on my part to the public. Adhere to the restrictions.”

Editor’s Note: Dr. Villarreal made the above comments in a Zoom conversation with the Rio Grande Guardian. The conversation included her thoughts on what the next legislative session might bring with regard to lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic. Here is the Zoom:

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