“We can’t think this is done” Cameron County officials urge everyone to get vaccine, wear mask

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Cameron County officials held a press conference Monday morning to give the latest updates on COVID-19.

“This is not a political issue, it’s a public safety and health issue!”

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr urged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during the press conference.

Cameron County officials updated the public on the current status of COVID-19 in the county. The last press conference was held on June 28.

Treviño said they warned residents six weeks ago about the spike in cases, the need for more people to get vaccinated, and that the Delta Variant was on its way.

In June there were more than 42,000 cases of COVID-19 in Cameron County.

The county reported over 44,000 cases in July, and the numbers are still rising as we approach mid-August according to officials. The county is reporting 45,457 cases right now.

Judge Treviño Jr. stressed that those who are not vaccinated, “put yourself, your community, and health workers at risk.”

He also said, “the data shows, if you get vaccinated … you’re highly unlikely to be hospitalized, yet we continue to deal with the same story.”

Judge Treviño went on to ask residents to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo also spoke about the spike.

He said they saw the wave coming, but it hit sooner than expected and is also spreading faster among younger people.

“We need to change to keep up with it [the virus], we can’t think this is done … or this is over,” Dr. Castillo said.

Dr. Castillo also said relaxing COVID restrictions, an increase in family gatherings, and people spending more time indoors led to an uptick in cases.

But, according to Dr. Castillo, the bigger issue is the number of young people who are spreading the virus, many of whom, think they’re “young and healthy.”

“We’re six weeks into this surge and now in this region, we’re up to 500 cases … that’s a massive increase,” Dr. Castillo said.

“Vaccines have been incredibly effective in reducing our death rates,” Dr. Castillo said. We see younger people dying … and every single one of those was preventable … 99.2 percent of all deaths since December were unvaccinated. It can’t be more obvious.”

Dr. Castillo also explained that COVID-19 symptoms are changing.

He says the Delta variant is changing how the virus spreads, adding it’s about 90 percent of community spread.

“If you’re sick, it’s probably COVID,” he said.

County officials are also pleading with people to wear masks.

“Masks work … we need to wear them … when it comes to the schools this shouldn’t be an option,” Dr. Castillo said.

Judge Treviño agrees, saying he’s discussing other ways to implement masks in schools and public spaces despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s order against enforcing masks.

“Whether its mandating children wearing the masks … or delaying the opening of school … and allowing the option of off-campus learning … we need to do everything we can to protect them,” Judge Trevino Jr. said.

Both Judge Treviño and Dr. Castillo are pleading with people to do what it takes to keep people safe, especially kids as the school year approaches.

“Keep them home if they’re sick,” Dr. Castillo said. Get them tested. Try to do everything you can to keep this out of school. Everybody needs to help with this.”

“Lives are at risk, especially now children … we now know the delta variant gets to kids,” Judge Treviño said.

Front line workers also spoke at the press conference.

A health care official said very few people in the ICU have been vaccinated.

They also stressed that hospitals are over capacity.

Melanie Garcia, an ER charge nurse at Valley Baptist, says the majority of people with COVID symptoms are under 40, and unvaccinated.

She says many of them are pleading for their lives and need oxygen to breathe.

“Those with the vaccine do not need hospitalizations,” Garcia said. “When you have COVID symptoms go to your primary care doctor, not the ER—they’re stretched thin, and it spreads covid.”

Garcia says, right now there simply aren’t enough nurses to provide adequate care to patients; nurses are working five to six, 12-hour shifts a week. Nurses typically work three 12-hour shifts per week.

Garcia, and other health care workers on the front lines, also say the number of COVID patients in the ER is making it harder to treat people who are in the ER for non-COVID reasons.

Judge Treviño said he’s disheartened by the COVID numbers when the tools to stop it are there.

“The only way we’re going to stop this and slowing this down … is everyone doing their part,” he said. That percentage under 50 who aren’t vaccinated … you’re the one spreading this. Personal responsibility starts with each and every one of us.”

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