COVID-19 cases steady as officials continue vaccine push in RGV

COVID-19 cases throughout the region remain steady, according to state health officials who are preparing to ramp up vaccination efforts now that one vaccine was authorized for use among 12 to 15 year olds.

In a seven-day period, there were a total of 1,150 new cases in Public Health Region 11, a 19-county region in South Texas that includes the Rio Grande Valley. That figure is down from the previous seven-day increase of 1,542 cases.

“So we’re seeing a little bit of plateauing, minor vacillation week to week, but this is significantly down from just a few months ago when we were seeing maybe 6,000 cases per seven-day increase,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuevas with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Cuevas added that they are also seeing positive trends in hospitalizations, including in the Valley where the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations make up 5.9% of all hospitalizations.

On Monday, there were 185 hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to DSHS data, which is down from the 195 reported the week prior. But while the current hospitalizations are a significant drop from the numbers seen in July of last year or even in January, the current figure is still an increase from the low of 156 seen last month.

In Hidalgo County, there are currently 116 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 and, of those patients, 39 are being treated in an intensive care unit, the county stated in a news release Tuesday.

County officials also reported two more COVID-19 related deaths along with 137 new cases.

The two deaths were of an Edinburg woman in her 60s and a Mercedes man in his 50s, according to a news release issued by the county.

Their deaths raised the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the county to 2,839.

Of the 137 new cases reported Tuesday, 89 are confirmed, 44 are probable, and four are suspected.

There are now a total of 58,892 confirmed cases, 28,958 probable and 1,713 suspected in Hidalgo County for an overall tally of 89,563.

Currently, 1,344 cases are considered active.

Cameron County health officials also reported two deaths on Tuesday, that of a Brownsville man over 90 and a San Benito man in his 50s, which brings their COVID-19 death toll to 1,639.

The county also reported 31 new confirmed cases which raise their total to 40,739 since the start of the pandemic. There are currently 2,809 active cases.

Starr County reported no new cases or deaths Tuesday, according to DSHS data, while Willacy County had six new confirmed cases.

As part of efforts to increase vaccinations, Cuevas said DSHS will continue holding several vaccine clinics in the coming weeks.

This week, they will hold 27 clinics with over 2,100 doses.

“For next week, week 23, we have 22 clinics planned for 1,900 doses,” Cuevas said. “Week 24, we have 21 clinics planned with 1,700 doses and week 25 we have 13 clinics planned so far with 1,900 doses.”

With the news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include individuals 12 to 15 years of age, health officials are working with local school districts, education centers, and pediatricians to push out the vaccine to adolescents who are interested in getting vaccinated.

“This is very exciting and I know there’s been multiple jurisdictions that have been waiting for this,” said Dr. Emilie Prot, regional medical director for DSHS Region 11. “Our team’s been working with different pediatricians’ offices, school (districts), and even local health departments that are interested in targeting these age groups.”