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Rio Grande Valley has second-highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalization in the state

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is decreasing across Texas, but not in the Rio Grande Valley.

Eleven of the Trauma Service Areas (TSAs) in Texas are now under the ‘high hospitalization’ threshold defined in Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32.

That’s down from 17 of the 22 back on January 8.

On February 1, 711 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. That represents nearly one-third of all patients in local hospitals.

DSHS data on hospitalizations in the Rio Grande Valley.

“[The number of hospitalizations] hasn’t dropped as fast as everybody would have hoped,” said Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority.

In fact, it hasn’t dropped at all. The percent of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley has hovered around 20 percent for pretty much the entire month of January. It’s “like a plateau at the top of a hill,” added Castillo.

According to the DSHS hospitalization data, the Rio Grande Valley was one of only two TSAs to have a higher percentage of people with COVID-19 in the hospital at the end of the week than at the start. The other was TSA ‘U’, which is centered around Corpus Christi.

The Rio Grande Valley has the second-highest rate of COVID-19 patients out of total hospital capacity in the entire state.

The TSA with the highest rate of COVID-19 patients out of total hospital capacity is TSA ‘T’, which is centered around Laredo.

The RGV has taken measures to help reduce the number of new cases.

For one thing, counties were required to reduce capacity to businesses as a result of having high hospitalizations.

Additionally, over 135,000 in the Rio Grande Valley have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the DSHS excel sheet you can view below.

Both of those factors have helped reduce the number of new cases. Fewer new cases mean fewer people who will potentially need to be hospitalized.

“I would hope to see the number of discharges start exceeding the number of new admissions by quite a bit,” said Dr. Castillo. “And that trend would need to continue for a few weeks to see a huge change.”

It can take a few weeks for COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization to become stable enough to be sent home.

Because the RGV’s apparent peak in COVID-19 cases was so recent, people who were hospitalized as a result are not yet stable enough to be discharged.

Unlike in the Summer of 2020, when the Rio Grande Valley was one of the first major COVID-19 hotspots in the country, “it seems that here in the Valley, this time, we were running a few weeks behind in the surge,” said Dr. Castillo.

Hospitals are still toeing the line of being overburdened, so people need to be extremely cautious going forward.

“It’s about adjusting that level of risk to try and lower it as much as possible,” said Dr. Castillo.

Here are the latest emergency orders from the four counties:

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