Officials highlight lack of exponential growth in RGV cases

Despite the continued daily growth of COVID-19 cases throughout the Rio Grande Valley, the area has not seen an exponential increase in cases and that is a very good sign, according to a regional health official.

That distinction was highlighted by Dr. Emilie Prot, medical director for Region 11 of the Department of State Health Services.

“Although we’ve seen increases in our cases, we haven’t seen an exponential increase,” she said.

On Friday, Hidalgo County reported seven more confirmed cases of the coronavirus while Cameron County reported nine more cases.

Cameron County also reported their fifth death related to the virus; it was the first death in which the individual was infected through community transmission.

Hidalgo County has reached 242 confirmed cases with 45 of them having been cleared. Out of Cameron County’s 279 confirmed cases, 102 have recovered.

So while there is steady increase of cases every day — about a hundred each week, according to Prot — there haven’t been exponential jumps such as an increase from 20 to 40 to 80 cases.

Preventing figures like that, Prot said, is accomplished by each person in a community doing their part.

The infectivity of COVID-19 cannot be controlled, she said, without treatment or a vaccine.

Currently, a person with the virus is believed to infect two to three people. That number is the R0 — pronounced R naught — or the basic reproduction number.

“We’re not changing the infectivity of the virus because we do not have any treatment and we do not have any vaccine, so we can’t decrease that infectivity,” Prot said. “However, the only thing that we can modify is human behavior.”

She pointed out that was why local and state governments have ordered people to wear masks and to stay at home and only go outside if necessary.

“Modifying human behavior will slow the spread of the virus, what we want to avoid is an exponential spike,” she said. “You just don’t want that to happen because it would overwhelm our system.”

As of Friday morning, the Valley has a total of 88 ICU beds available and the total number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals is 111, according to Alberto Perez, an incident commander with DSHS Region 11.

He added that 10 COVID-19 patients were admitted to ICU in the last 24 hours.

DSHS is following projection models, Prot said, but they’ve been unable to determine when the area will reach its peak the number of cases.

She praised the community for doing their part but also said she was concerned over the effects of the Easter holiday.

“I am worried because I do think that over Easter, people still gathered,” she said. If people were infected during that weekend, results from that should start coming out next week, 10 days after Easter.

“I do see, still, a lot of cars on the road,” she added, “so please if you’re not needing to go somewhere, just stay home.”