‘A dangerous storm is coming’: Hidalgo County officials urge vaccinations as in-person school returns

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EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — Hidalgo County officials held a press conference Tuesday morning to encourage vaccinations before the school year begins.

“If weather experts tell us that a dangerous storm is coming, most of us will make preparations for the storm,” said Hidalgo Couty Judge Richard Cortez. “Unfortunately, there will always be some that don’t feel the need to prepare.”

Judge Cortez added that if the community does not prepare for the “storm” it will be children who suffer the consequences.

He also made comments about the importance of continuing to take necessary precautions even if mandates are not in place.

“I would encourage our residents to petition the governor asking him to allow us to use these tools [ability to impose local madates], that we know work.”

Cortez said the most significant tool was the vaccine. The second being personal responsibility.

Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Chief Administrative Officer Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez spoke on the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

“We have 128 in the hospital…41 in the ICU as of 7a .m. [Tuesday] morning,” said Olivarez. “12.91% of all our hospital beds in Hidalgo county…have COVID patients in them.”

Cortez made reference to Governor Greg Abbott’s order that allows a county judge to impose certain mitigation ordinances if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions of Texas rise above 15% of bed capacity for seven straight days.

“The enemy that we were combating last year, is not the same enemy that we’re combating today,” said Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez.

Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended everyone over the age of 2 should wear a face mask inside schools – regardless of vaccination status.

“If children are not affected, how come we have three people that have been less than 18-year-old that have perished?” said Melendez on one reason some say children don’t need the vaccine.

Hidalgo ISD Superintendent Xavier Salinas also urged the community to call state officials to give schools the flexibility to decide what is best for schools.

Salinas said the TEA has removed the requirements for schools to implement safety guidelines at campuses.

“I, as superintendent of schools of Hidalgo ISD, know better than what the governor is doing because I’m in the trenches every day,” said Salinas. “I’m with the kids every day. I’m around our teachers every day. They are creating a perfect storm for a huge outbreak of COVID in the hospitals from 3 to 11-year-olds.”

Salinas also encouraged parents to get themselves and their kids vaccinated before the start of school.

Salinas mentioned the situation in Hidalgo County was different than in other counties across the state and that therefore local officials should be able to make the decision for the people here.

The press conference comes about a month before school starts for many.

As of now, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for those 12-years and older.

The push to get students vaccinated also follows the confirmation of the first case of the Delta Variant in the Rio Grande Valley.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Melendez.

Watch the full press conference above the article.

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