HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — When Governor Greg Abbott removed the mask mandate in mid-March, health officials were concerned it would cause a resurgence in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The pandemic did not stop spring breakers from coming to South Padre Island this year. Combined with the mask mandate being lifted, experts expected to see another spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
But it hasn’t happened.
“I have to be honest, the numbers have not gone up despite [the removal of the mask mandate]. And it’s been almost a month, it’s been three and a half weeks,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the health authority for Hidalgo County.
Even with the crowds on South Padre Island, hospitalizations have only decreased in the following weeks.
Melendez said the number of people who have already received vaccines, or have previously had COVID-19 and therefore have residual immunity, are helping keep new infections down.
According to the CDC, around 30% of the Rio Grande Valley has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Adding all the people who have already recovered from COVID-19 in the area, and Melendez said “it’s a nice estimate to say that at least 50% of the community which we live in has some level of immunity.”
New data from the CDC show that over 100 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Melendez told KVEO that that’s a good start, but we don’t yet know how long the immunity from vaccines lasts. But the results from the earliest clinical trials in 2020 are promising.
“By September, the trial studies in humans were already beginning. So, even those people to this point are still measuring that they have immunity,” said Melendez.
The increased rate vaccinations are being given is driving us toward the light at the end of the tunnel. Melendez said he believes it will be a matter of months.
“If we continue at the same pace that we are now, then we would win this battle,” he said. “We would win this battle probably within the next two years completely, and in our part of the world –probably by the end of Summer– we’d be sitting very very good.”