HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — It has been three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Dr. Ivan Melendez recalls the early days of the pandemic and the toll it took on the Rio Grande Valley.

“We went from the high point of 1,200 people in the hospital to 32 people today,” said Dr. Melendez.

Hospital resources across the RGV were strained and ICUs were filled to capacity but Dr. Melendez said things have gotten better. 

“70 people dying a day, is a dramatic number to one or two a week. So, we are thankful and rejoicing that we’re not anywhere near the way we were before.”

While things may be getting back to normal Melendez said COVID is part of a new reality. He said vaccines have helped control the spread of the virus.

Compared to three years ago, he said the virus is now being handled differently. 

Cameron County employees test positive for COVID-19.

“I don’t believe it’s going to go away ever because our chance to eradicate it dissipated six months after it started,” said Melendez. “Now will be in the containment mode like most of the other viral diseases, still present, still active.”

The latest data out of Hidalgo County shows over 3,000 cases reported this year so far. Melendez said that compared to three years ago the spread of the virus has slowed. He urges the community to still take precautions, such as staying home if they are sick. 

“There are people who are testing positive today, and they’re still going to work. They’re still running around like nothing’s going on because as they believe it’s no big deal. This is so selfish and so wrong, and so dangerous. So, we have to remind people this is still a very serious disease,” said Melendez.

If you experience COVID-like symptoms you should get tested and practice precautions like social distancing and proper handwashing. Melendez adds staying up to date on vaccines is also important in limiting the spread of the virus.