BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) — Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño held a press conference Monday to give the latest COVID-19 updates.
The press conference comes almost a week after Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to allowing businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity and ending the state-wide mask mandate. Those orders go into effect on March 10.
Throughout the conference, the Monoclonal antibodies infusion center in Harlingen was emphasized. The infusion center has proved to helped lower the chances of RGV residents to go to the hospital.
The FDA said the treatment is laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.
Judge Treviño previously expressed concern about the timing of Abott’s decision, as Spring Break is just around the corner for most universities in Texas.
At the press conference, Treviño again expressed his growing concerns about the vulnerable population in the Rio Grande Valley, adding he will continue to work with state leaders to do what is best for the area.
“We are not at the point yet, in our fight against COVID, that we can relax. We don’t want to be sending mixed messages… but I want to be absolutely, 100 percent crystal clear to the people that are watching and the people that live in Cameron County and here in the Valley, keep wearing your masks,” said Treviño. “We know what works.”
Treviño said the community needs to continue doing what right for their health and the health of others. He also encouraged local businesses to continue following CDC guidelines and regulations for the safety of their workers and customers.
Judge Treviño also touched on vaccine distribution in the county, addressing early concerns about the long lines to receive a dose.
“When all this first started the mandate from the CDC and the state was ‘you need to get shots in arms’, and if we did not get shots in arms, we were not gonna continue to receive those numbers of vaccinations on a weekly basis.”
Treviño explains collaboration between cities have now allowed the process to go smoother by creating mass clinics. He adds doctor’s clinics can now also be given doses to administer.
The county is currently focusing on those 65 and older and those 18 and older with pre-existing conditions, said Treviño.
Treviño shared he is hopeful for more Johnson & Johnson vaccines, as the one dose option allows the vaccination of more individuals.
“We are pleading, and begging for each of you to keep wearing your mask,” he said. “Lives are at stake.”
Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo explained that we are nowhere near heard immunity.
“We are getting closer, unfortunately mostly due to the number of infections that are out there,” he said. “It’s still not safe yet.”
Dr. Castillo said that covid19.healthdata.org predicted the winter surges. After Abbott lifted the mask mandate, the website shared that Texas could begin to see an extra 50 to 100 deaths per day throughout the summer if people abandon masks. Dr. Castillo said that if Texas continued with the precautionary measures, we could’ve seen the number of deaths “trickle off” into single digits by July.
“If we keep using all those precautions and masks, hopefully by the summer we will see the number of new cases and deaths drop to a level in which we can begin to start dropping some restrictions,” he said.
The health authority added that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was tested when different variants of the virus began to emerge.
“It was showing 100% protection against death, remarkably high protection against being but in the hospital, 70-80% protection against getting severe disease. It protects from being contagious if you do get COVID, 75% reduction in being contagious.”
Dr. Castillo said that he believes that the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine will get the community a lot closer to immunity.
“Out best practices are clearly working until we as a community let our guard down under special circumstances, our traditional celebratory circumstances, thanksgiving, Christmas, new years, etcetera” said Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen CEO Manny Vela.
Vela said that he also disagrees with the governors order to end the mask mandate.
“I’ve heard the argument that we could trust people to do what is right, but if you just look at the history of this last year, unfortunately there have been instances where we beg people to follow the best practices…people are not as diligent as they can be.”
Abbott’s order does allow county judges to impose restrictions if hospital capacity remains above 15% for seven consecutive days.
With tears in her eyes, Cameron County Public Health Administrator Esmer Guajardo said it was hard for her and her staff to see the mask mandate be lifted while seeing the behind-the-scenes and the numbers of patients.
“It just makes it so difficult to deal with something like this when you have a fear that people are going to forget that quickly everything that people went through,” she said.