COVID-19 continues to strain RGV hospitals

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — COVID-19 continues to impact hospitals across the Rio Grande Valley (RGV).

Health officials say facilities are nearing capacity from over the holidays.

“Right now, tests have been going up. Hospitalizations have been going up and ICUs have been going up,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez.

A concerning trend here, not only being admitted but staying for days at a time.

Health officials like Cameron County Health Authority Doctor James Castillo said Texas hasn’t hit its peak yet and locally we’re behind the rest of the state, meaning cases will likely continue to surge.

“So here in the valley we’re probably going to see increased hospitalizations throughout January and maybe start to see some improvement in February,” said Dr. Castillo.

Starr County is also felling the impact.

“We’ve had three deaths over the last couple of days,” said County Judge Eloy Vera.

Vaccine rollout has been slow, even then Dr. Castillo said it’ll be a while before we can return to attending events maskless.

“Return to quote normal, where people don’t wear mask and gatherings without fear of COVID to go back to 2019 basically is not until 2022. I think what the vaccine is going to do before then is to prevent a third wave of hospitals being overwhelmed. Right now, we’re in our second wave of COVID crisis here in the valley,” said Dr. Castillo.

As concerns continue to grow from the current trajectory, leaders are considering measures to slow the spread.

“In fact, today the governor has an order and my order parallels pretty much parallels his order and if we were to have 50 percent of our capacity used up in the hospitals then we need to go back to 50-percent for occupancy in our restaurants and other businesses and unfortunately, we’re there,” said Cortez. He adds they’re going to rewrite the order, hopeful it’ll be for a short period of time.

“No one likes telling people what to do. We’re hopeful that once the vaccine starts to have an impact we can lift a lot of the orders that we have and people can start doing some of the things they’re used to doing,” said County Judge Vera.

Dr. Castillo said even when vaccines become more available people still need to practice social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

There is also another option for RGV residents, Monoclonal antibodies. The FDA said the treatment is laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.

“We have a regional infusion center here in Harlingen. So, if a person with risk factors who’s over 65 or a person with major obesity or a BMI over 35…if they get exposed and develop symptoms and test positive there’s now something we can do about it to try and reduce their risk of getting hospitalized.”

Dr. Castillo said they’ve done over 200 infusions so far in the last few weeks.

“Those are hospitalizations that we are protecting people against. Which is exactly what we want to do right now that the hospitals are overwhelmed…The vaccine is not a treatment.”

He urges people to contact their healthcare provider or the county to see if they’re eligible for the transfusion.

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