South Texas COVID-19 cases skyrocket; deaths increasing in border communities

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Governor expands ability of county judges to impose restrictions on public gatherings

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, delivers remarks at a press conference on June 22, 2020, relating to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the state. He warned Texans that further measures might be taken to restrict the reopening process if citizens do not adhere to the guidelines outlined by the state. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The number of coronavirus cases in South Texas has taken a dramatic upturn in all of the border counties, prompting local officials to urge the public to wear facial coverings, practice social distancing and save tests for the those who are truly sick.

Statewide, Texas has had rising numbers and record totals. OnTuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott even said that local officials have the ability to limit public gatherings to fewer than 100 people.

Late Tuesday, Hidalgo County reported a single-day record total of 248 new cases and two deaths, bringing the total of cases in the county to 2,130 with 25 deaths.

Rural Starr County, which a few weeks ago was in single-digits for COVID-19 cases, on Monday reported its second death and a total of 379 COVID-19 cases.

Cameron County on Monday reported 101 new cases and the death of an 88-year-old nursing home resident. There have been a total of 49 deaths in Cameron County and 1647 cases. The county has been struggling to contain an outbreak of the virus in four nursing home facilities where there have been a total of 13 deaths.

The county confirmed nearly 600 cases in a 12-day period since June 10, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr., said during a two-hour media briefing on Monday.

Treviño urged that testing resources be used only by those who are suspected of carrying the virus. “If you’re just nervous, I understand that but that’s probably not a good reason to get tested,” Treviño said.

Treviño also defended an order he issued that starting today requires all patrons and employees in businesses to wear facial coverings. “I know the great majority of people in Cameron County and the Rio Grande Valley are using their masks, but we’ve seen in the past month and a half, as the economy started re-opening, and they’ve been more relaxed and this spike in numbers is a direct result,” he said.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on Friday issued a mandatory facial-covering rule in all businesses after Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday explained that his statewide re-opening plans do not prevent county judges from ordering that face masks be worn in public businesses.

On Tuesday afternoon, as statewide cases surged, Abbott expanded the ability of mayors and county judges to impose restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people. Previously, this applied only to outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people. He also directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to enact emergency rules for health and safety standards and procedures at all childcare centers.

“These are just some of the steps Texas will take to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Abbott said. “Today’s proclamation and emergency rules will aid in that effort.”

He added that he urges everyone to wear a mask saying: “As we face this challenge, there is no substitute for personal responsibility. I urge all Texans to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often, and staying 6 feet apart from others.”

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