McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A day after 16 people died from COVID-19 in Hidalgo County, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced the state will begin offering free “surge testing” in South Texas.
Up to 5,000 free coronavirus tests will be administered per day for a week starting Wednesday through July 14 as part of a collaborative effort with the state Department of Health and Human Services, Hidalgo County and the City of Edinburg, Abbott said.
“This new surge testing site will help us identify and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley and keep Texans safe. We remain committed to working with our local and federal partners to develop more ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and protect public health,” Abbott said in a statement.
A “hot spot” border area for the virus, Hidalgo County on Monday reported 16 deaths from COVID-19 — the single-highest one-day total since the pandemic began. This brings the total deaths to 75 from coronavirus in this county of 860,000. There were 102 new coronavirus cases reported Monday. On Sunday, county officials reported 547 more people had tested positive for the deadly virus over the long Independence Day holiday weekend.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hidalgo County now is 5,447 with 602 people currently hospitalized, including 167 in ICU units. Hospitals are reportedly at capacity and all residents are urged to practice social distancing and to stay home as much as possible.
“These are startling numbers, coming at a time when our medical system is working round-the-clock to protect our neighbors,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said in a statement. “The least we can do is help these medical professionals out by exercising caution and avoiding people so we can slow the spread of this disease. My deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of all those who have died.”
Texas state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, who is on a panel appointed by the governor to advise on COVID-19, said Monday that over 450 healthcare workers from other parts of Texas and the nation have come to the Rio Grande Valley to help medical professionals cope with the spike surge in cases.
“I am pleased Gov. Abbott is responding quickly to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Rio Grande Valley and is sending critical testing to our community. Our local officials and hospital staff have been working tirelessly to address the increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. We can only stop the spread of this disease by identifying who is infected and keeping them from infecting others. This action by the governor to provide additional testing is the kind of cooperation and response we need to help reverse the outbreak we are experiencing,” Hinojosa said.
“As the Rio Grande Valley continues to shoulder the brunt of the alarmingly expanding coronavirus outbreak, we are all thankful that our state and federal agencies are acting on our outcry for help by providing surge response in free COVID-19 testing that is necessary to protect the families and residents we represent,” Texas state Sen. Eddie Lucio said.