Lawmakers request more funds, field hospital from federal government

Federal lawmakers are requesting more resources for the Rio Grande Valley from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to fight COVID-19 in the region.

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar and Filemon Vela — Democrats from McAllen, Laredo and Brownsville, respectively — joined U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in penning a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting a federal medical station and more funding for COVID-19 hot spots like the Valley.

“Unfortunately, with recent surges in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks, our health systems have been pushed to their limits,” the letter stated. “Even with retrofitting facilities, implementing new delivery methods for health services and expending resources to increase capacity — additional financial and personnel support are needed from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).”

They noted that on June 1, there were 218 net positive cases in Hidalgo County but those numbers have now surged to 4,375 active cases. Hospitalizations, they added, increased by over 1,000%.

As a result, nine out of the 12 hospital emergency departments in the Rio Grande Valley were diverting patients due to high volume as of Thursday, the letter stated.

They added that healthcare providers have requested additional staffing and resources including oxygen, ventilators, personal protective equipment, dialysis machines and more facilities.

“To quote a local hospital administrator, ‘we cannot wait 30 days.’ As such, we write to ask for support in the form of a Federal Medical Station or similar facility, to be established as soon as possible,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We also ask that HHS act swiftly to allocate another tranche of hotspot funding for areas, like the Rio Grande Valley, that have experienced surges after the April 10th and June 10th cutoffs.”

They thanked HHS for setting up the surge testing site currently set up in Edinburg but added that the “rapid deployment of federal resources would go a long way to alleviate and agent the local response.”