South Texas COVID-19 numbers continue to rise despite curfews, shelter-in-place orders

Border Report Tour

Strict quarantine and vehicle travel restrictions in effect in Rio Grande Valley

FILE – In this July 23, 2020 file photo, health care workers prepare a COVID-19 test sample before a person self-administered a test at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami. Racial disparities in the the U.S. coronavirus epidemic extend to children, according to two sobering government reports released Friday, Aug. 7. One of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports looked at hospitalizations of children with COVID-19. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.(David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — Cameron County on the Gulf Coast saw a staggering 56% increase in COVID-19 cases in one week, the county judge announced Friday as numbers of deaths and infections continued to rise out of control in the border region of South Texas.

The number of coronavirus cases went from 10,155 to 15,865, and the number of deaths jumped 66% from 206 to 342 in just one week, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. announced during a news conference on Friday held on a Facebook live event.

“We warned everybody that you, the public, would see a spike in cases from our reporting and sure enough that’s exactly what happened,” Treviño said.

Mandatory shelter-in-place orders remain in effect until Aug. 10, and face masks are required in public. There also is an overnight curfew for all youth under age 18 in Cameron County.

Neighboring Hidalgo County has an overnight curfew in place for everyone — adults included — that this week was extended through Aug. 19. The order also requires all residents to shelter-in-place and says youths may not leave their residence unless accompanied by an adult and only for “essential” services, such as medical care.

Any visitors coming to the county must quarantine for 14 days. And there can be no more than two occupants per vehicle (up to four if traveling for medical reasons), the order says.

Hidalgo County has had 18,699 coronavirus cases and 743 deaths, including 22 deaths and 404 new cases on Thursday, county officials reported. Of all tested, 16% are turning out positive, which is far higher than the 10% ratio recommended by the state.

During a Facebook Live event by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on Thursday, a shared graphic showed a sweeping spike in county infections from early June to late July. Unlike Cameron County, however, Hidalgo County did start to see a drop in cases this past week.

Source: Hidalgo County

“We had been going up and up and up until the last week of July and thank goodness we are starting to come down,” Cortez said. “This is good news.”

Starr County has also reported an increase in cases this past week. After going days and even weeks went with single-digit case increases and very few deaths, the rural county now has 22 deaths and an additional 51 fatalities that are “pending state confirmation,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority. The county has had 2,405 cases including 25 new cases on Thursday.

To help reduce the community spread of COVID-19, the Texas National Guard has been conducting free surge testing throughout the Rio Grande Valley, including weekdays at the Starr County Fair Grounds in Rio Grande City. Starting at 9 a.m. Sunday in the town of Escobares, free tests will be administered “on a first come first served basis,” county officials said

Farther west, Webb County, home to the city of Laredo, on Friday reported six more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 155 fatalities since the pandemic began. The county has had 7,540 cases and nearly half — 4,717 currently are active.

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