WESLACO, Texas — Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday and gave an update on how the state looks to respond to the destruction left by Hurricane Hanna.
Abbott also touched on how state and local leaders look to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is greatly affecting the RGV.
Although Hurricane Hanna caused flooding and damage for many residents across the region, Governor Abbott was glad that no fatalities were reported due to the natural disaster.
“The goal is to do the best possible to very quickly make assessments about what the damages are and what the needs are,” commented Abbott. “[The goal is] for the state to step up and help address those needs.”
Governor Abbott announced that he waived certain regulations for commercial trucking, allowing drivers to deliver electric power supplies at a quicker pace to communities that are still dealing with power outages.
Mosquito control, sheltering, and agricultural damage are also being addressed by state officials, however, Governor Abbott did not go into detail on how these issues would be handled.
Governor Abbott commended the efforts of local leaders to deal with both a natural disaster and a pandemic.
“It’s an enormous challenge for any local leader to step up and be able to address a hurricane,” stated Abbott. “It’s even more challenging when you couple that with a pandemic.”
At this point, Abbott switched the topic to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This hurricane has not eliminated COVID-19,” demanded Abbott. “COVID-19 still exists in the Rio Grande Valley. It can still be easily transmitted in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Abbott doubled down and stated that residents need to practice CDC guidelines by wearing masks, social distance, and not gather in large groups of people.
However, when asked if any stay-at-home orders would be issued, Abbott stated that Texas would continue to press mask requirements onto people as COVID-19 positive tests are declining in numbers.
Abbott also mentioned that a stay-at-home order could increase cases because of transmission among family members. He also was worried about the threat a stay-at-home order would place on the economy.
In an effort to provide more hospitalization in the RGV, the McAllen Convention Center will be used as a medical facility and can house up to 250 patients.
Additionally, more locations will be opened to provide capacity for COVI-19 patients.
Governor Abbott also announced that 85-person medical teams are coming to assist hospitals in Edinburg and Harlingen.
“The State of Texas will work with our federal and local partners to ensure that every healthcare need of every person in the Rio Grande Valley is going to be met,” commanded Abbott.
With the governor’s arrival, came protesters outside that wanted their voices heard on both damage left from Hurricane Hanna and the ongoing issues from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first to arrive was a Weslaco family who have seen their neighborhood flood the past three years.
“Every year we get water inside our houses. [Weslaco] says we live outside the city limits but we still pay taxes, we live in Weslaco,” said Nathalie Tovar as her family continues to deal with flooding. “All the water they pump out of Weslaco they dump in the canals, that’s why we get flooded every year.”
Even with Hurricane Hanna’s wrath only a few days old, and still ongoing for some residents, a majority of demonstrators had their thoughts focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Close the state before it’s too late” and other chants were shouted by about a dozen people who made it out to demand action from the governor.
Although most of the press conference was focused on the state’s COVID-19 response, Governor Abbott did answer one last comment on the RGV’s continuing flood problems.
“This is an issue we have been working on for the last several sessions as we work toward solutions,” Abbott answered. “We’re still looking for the right solutions and it’s something we need to move toward quickly.”
Abbott also revealed that any projects for infrastructure that would prevent flooding would take several years to complete.