Valley’s COVID-19 tally soars with 650 new cases

Death toll, case activity see record highs in region

Three grim records were broken in the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday. 

Hidalgo County reported its largest single-day death toll of 11, which includes the youngest fatality there so far, and highest jump in cases with 440, according to a county news release. For perspective, there were 382 new cases reported Monday encompassing all four counties in the region. All are highs for the Valley.

The death toll there is now 46, and the total number of cases there is 3,982. On Tuesday, 55 people were released from isolation — meaning they have been symptom-free for 10 days, and three days without a fever — leaving 2,786 active cases.

“My heart is extremely heavy tonight as we mourn the loss of 11 of our residents,” county Judge Richard F. Cortez wrote in the release. “They were someone’s child, someone’s parents and someone’s grandparents. Eleven families will never be the same again because of this deadly disease. I send my deepest condolences to each and every one of them.”

Those who died were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions, and ranged in age from 20 to older than 70; the 20-year-old Edinburg man is the youngest coronavirus-related death so far. They resided in Edinburg, Donna, San Juan, McAllen, San Juan, Hidalgo, Alamo, Mission and Weslaco. 

One of the active cases includes Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County Health Authority, the county announced in a separate release Tuesday morning. 

The medical advisor was informed that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday during a press conference with several hospital administrators and local leaders. 

“Dr. Melendez has come to be an insightful and trusted advisor during this pandemic,” Cortez, who was present at that meeting, wrote in the release. “I am praying for his quick recovery.”

Additionally, there are currently 274 people hospitalized due to the disease, with 19 in intensive care units. 

The county has administered a total of 44,141 tests, of which, 3,577 are still pending. 

Of the total cases seen in the county, 21 were confirmed to either be employees or students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, according to a university email sent to students and staff on Tuesday. 

The announcement did not specify if the infected were students or staff, but noted that anyone from the university community who could have been at risk of contracting the disease from the individuals has been notified and instructed to self-isolate or get tested.

Areas on campus which could have been exposed to the coronavirus have been disinfected and cleaned. 

Additionally, a McAllen ISD employee who worked at a food preparation site last week has been confirmed Tuesday to have contracted the coronavirus, according to a district news release.

The employee worked at a food distribution site at Sanchez Elementary School in McAllen from June 22 to 26. 

“The individual was never in contact with families. All Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was in place at all times,” Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez wrote in the release. “Social Distancing was adhered to at all times. Aside from never being in contact with the individual, you are reminded that employees who prepare and serve meals wear masks and shields and adhere to more than six feet of separation from all other individuals.”

The district and the Hidalgo County Health Department have traced co-workers who could have been in contact with the person and recommended they self-isolate for two weeks.

Starr County also confirmed 105 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority, who himself has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the largest number of cases reported in a single day not including individuals in nursing homes. 

The county has now seen a total of 718 cases, of which, 569 remain active. The death toll remains at three. 

Also on Tuesday, Cameron County confirmed 103 new cases of the coronavirus, according to a news release, raising the total number of cases there to 2,399. 

The new cases range in age from 11 days old to 81 years, and reside in Bayview, Brownsville, Combes, Harlingen, La Feria, Laguna Vista, Los Fresnos, Olmito, Rancho Viejo, Rio Hondo, San Benito and South Padre Island. 

The county also reported that 73 individuals recovered from the disease, leaving 860 active cases.

Willacy County also confirmed two more cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, according to a county news release. 

The new cases there are women in their 30s and 50s. 

The county has now seen a total of 156 cases of the disease.

“This is just another reminder that this virus is in our neighborhood and with more testing being done, the more likely it will be to get another positive case,” county Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra said in the release. “With this knowledge, citizens are urged to continue to adhere to the Order to stay at home, social distance and routinely wash hands and cover/block you sneeze and coughs.”