HARLINGEN — A new Regional Infusion Center opens today to treat COVID patients.

The new center at 1720 Treasure Hills Blvd. will use monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID patients who have not been hospitalized to lessen the severity of their symptoms.

Friday morning city, county and state officials met at the location to announce the opening of the center formerly occupied by the Ronald McDonald House.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. spoke first to the group which included Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell, Cameron County Health Director James Castillo, and Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.

Trevino began with giving some sobering facts about the COVID surge.

“Today we are reporting more than 46,342 (total) positive cases in Cameron County,” Trevino said. “On Monday we reported 45,467 (total). In four days, we’ve increased by 875 cases. These numbers are approaching where we were at last summer and in the winter.”

He also spoke of 12 new COVID deaths in Cameron County in four days, bringing the death toll to 1,731. He called this “unacceptable.”

“For this reason, I am pleased to announce that Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas Division of Emergency Management is assisting us in reopening this infusion center,” he said.

The first infusion center opened in December at Casa Amistad and treated patients until March. It closed when infection rates dropped to a more manageable level due to vaccination. However, hospitals are filling once again. The problem is primarily due to the highly-contagious Delta variant infecting those who haven’t been vaccinated.

Vela said Valley Baptist is currently treating about 100 COVID patients.

“Well over 90 percent of those patients have not been vaccinated,” Vela said. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Vaccination is absolutely the number one line of defense.”

The monoclonal therapies at the infusion center will help keep COVID patients out of the hospital. But the best way to stay out of the hospital is to get vaccinated, experts say.

The former Ronald McDonald House Charities, pictured in back, located at 1720 Treasure Hills Blvd will now house the Regional Infusion Center which will serve the entire Rio Grande Valley. Assistant Project Manager Luis Valencia puts up signs directing the way to the facility after the press conference. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

“Every facility has a breaking point,” Vela said. “What we’re trying to avoid at all costs is for any hospital to reach that breaking point. We are urging, we are begging, we’re pleading our community to cooperate with us. If you have not been vaccinated, please reconsider. The science and the data could not be more clear. The vaccine works exactly how our doctors have told us it would, how the scientists have told us it would. Please reconsider.”

Castillo said the Delta variant is running through the community very rapidly. Prevention through face masks and vaccination is crucial to stop the spread, experts say.

“Right now this virus is really going through people who are unvaccinated,” Castillo said. “The most important thing is to get tested, and now there’s this treatment available in our community. The sooner we give it, the sooner it reduces the person’s chance of ending up in the hospital because the hospitals are just filled to capacity.”

Castillo said anyone with symptoms should speak to their primary care physicians. Those who have no doctor or insurance can call the county’s COVID hotline at (956) 247-3650.

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