Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. held a press conference on Tuesday where he updated the public on the status of COVID-19 in the area, including the distribution of the vaccine and the increasing number of positive coronavirus cases.
Treviño said the county received 6,000 vaccines which will be distributed Thursday and Friday at the Los Fresnos Fire Department starting at 6 a.m. For Thursday, only those 65 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
On Friday, the county will follow Phase 1B guidelines, which includes persons who are 65 years of age or older, and persons of 18 years of age or older with at least one chronic medical health condition.
Treviño said there has been an increase in positive cases this month and even though the numbers are not as high as they were last summer, the hospitals are at alarming capacities.
As of press time, more than 4,300 cases have been detected in January, totaling 32,698 of positive cases in the county with 27,211 cleared and 1,228 deaths. Last August, there were approximately 10,000 positive cases detected that month.
“We are not near where we were in August and September, but unfortunately, our capacity at our hospitals are,” he said.
Dr. James Castillo, health authority with the county, said most of the hospitals are well over 25 percent of the patients currently with COVID-19.
“ICU bed capacity is running very tight and anything we can do to help change that trend of getting people hospitalized is of critical importance right now,” he said.
The county, with the support of the state, opened up a therapeutic infusion center in December. The infusion center reduces dramatically the need for COVID-19 patients to get hospitalized.
Castillo said patients who have received the infusion therapy have reduced their chances of getting hospitalized by 60 to 70 percent. He said in the Rio Grande Valley, there are over 680 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the county the number keeps going up with over 255 hospitalized currently.
“So far, we’ve been very successful having treated over 600 people,” he said. “If you think about a 10-percent hospitalization risk for those 600, there should have been 60 people hospitalized out of those 600. Instead, we only have a handful of people hospitalized.”
Castillo said the entire community must take the necessary safety measures to stop the spread of the virus even if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine already. He said there is not enough research showing the vaccine makes people immune to the virus.
“For people who have been fortunate enough to get the vaccine, that does not mean you can change your behavior. The vaccines that are available have shown to be able to reduce a person’s risk of getting symptomatic COVID-19, it dramatically reduces the risk of getting severe diseased, in other words sick enough that you have to go to the hospital, but it’s not yet known how much it reduces the risk of the person becoming able to spread this virus,” he said.
“It may very well be that people can get asymptomatic infections after the vaccine and still spread it. Just because you had the vaccine… you do not go out and act like we are back in 2019. You keep wearing masks and taking all of those precautions, so not only you don’t get COVID-19, but you don’t inadvertently go out and spread it.”
Art Garza, CEO at Valley Regional Medical Center, said 40 percent of the patients at the hospital are COVID-19 patients and the ICU has been over capacity before the Christmas holiday. Garza said we are probably still going to see higher numbers in the months to come before it gets better.
“It’s going to take all of us focusing on taking care of each other to reach the other side,” he said.