Rio Grande Valley hits Covid-19 milestone

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The Rio Grande Valley hit a milestone in COVID-19 hospitalizations Thursday, and not a good one. For the seventh day in a row the percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations out of total hospital capacity was above 15%.

As outlined in Executive Order GA-32, which you can view here, being above 15% for COVID-19 hospitalizations out of total hospital capacity for seven consecutive days means that the area now has ‘high hospitalizations’.

This means most businesses in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy Counties will now be forced to only have 50% capacity.

The Rio Grande Valley has seen a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital since the start of December.

“If more people keep getting admitted to the hospital than are getting discharged, you’ll keep seeing that census increase and increase,” said Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County health authority.

That hypothetical situation posed by Dr. Castillo is the reality of the situation in the Rio Grande Valley, and for the majority of the state as well.

Seventeen out of 22 ‘Trauma Service Areas‘ (TSA) in Texas currently have high hospitalization of Covid-19 patients. Those 17 TSAs represent 25 million, 750 thousand Texans, or roughly 90% of the population of the state.

With such a large percent of the state either in a county that has lots of COVID-19 patients in their hospitals, or neighboring a county that does, it would make sense to start implementing stricter statewide restrictions as we saw in the summer of 2020.

On Monday, KVEO contacted Governor Greg Abbott’s office to ask for an interview about his plan to help lower these high hospitalization rates. His office asked for KVEO’s questions in advance, and when we provided them, they refused to answer.

In a press conference about ‘Operation Warp Speed’ on December 17, Governor Abbott made his stance clear on another shutdown.

“People’s lives have been crushed, and their pocketbooks, and their ability to pay the rent and put food on the table has been harmed because of the shutdowns. And so, no, we will not have anymore shutdowns in Texas.”

Governor Greg Abbott

KVEO had planned to ask the Governor if there was any plans to rescind Executive Order GA-32, which was issued on October 7.

For reference, on October 7, there were 43 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Cameron County. On January 7, there were 201. You can view the statistics for Cameron County here.

Certainly, the holiday season caused a large increase in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.

“Its gone, unfortunately, more than what we were expecting,” said Castillo.

A screenshot showing the increase in the percent of Covid-19 patients in hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley over the past week. Viewable on the DSHS website.

However, he’s hopeful this is our newest peak because there are “no other holidays in the near future, and plus it’s getting absolutely scary, might make those numbers come down.”

Dr. Castillo tells KVEO that the death rate for COVID-19 is a lagging indicator, usually taking a week or more to start increasing to match the spike in case numbers and hospitalizations. That means we should start seeing an increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley in the next week or so.

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