Health officials say they see the ‘Sunlight at the end of the tunnel’ but we aren’t out just yet

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — March 1 marks the anniversary of the first reported COVID-19 death in the United States. Over 500,000 Americans have died from the virus since.

Analysis later revealed the actual first death from COVID-19 in the United States happened in early February.

The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus wouldn’t make its way to the Rio Grande Valley until mid-March.

For healthcare professionals like Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez, it has been a long year.

“In a couple of days, it will be a year here in the Valley since we had our first case. This is the first time in a year that I start seeing some sunlight at the end of that tunnel,” said Melendez.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Rio Grande Valley has seen two big spikes in cases and hospitalizations. The first during the Summer, in late July and early August.

The second spike happened during and after the 2020 holiday season.

“We were at 150 during Halloween, went up to about 500 a month ago, and now we’re less than 200. It’s fantastic news,” said Melendez.

According to Melendez, around 300,000 people in Hidalgo County have some form of antibody resistance to COVID-19, either from having caught the disease and recovered or from getting at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Melendez said because roughly a third of the population has some kind of resistance, it would be fine to begin outdoor, socially distanced activities.

“I think it’s important to get back to normal, absolutely. Is it time? Probably. I think it’s time to slowly start moving in that direction. Can we do 100%? Absolutely not,” Melendez said.

While things have improved, we’re not out of the woods yet. Melendez said that people need to continue following CDC guidelines.

“Still avoid large groups of people, movies, concerts, those large events. We should still avoid congregating in large family meetings.”

For those who have already received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, getting the second dose is still very important, even if things are looking better.

“Because our memory cells, our key memory cells, our key helper cells, our immune system, really need that second shot to get our long-term impact,” said Melendez.

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