COVID cases, hospitalizations plateaued, remain high

As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fluctuate, state health officials report that the numbers have stabilized though they still remain high.

The seven-day increases in COVID cases have lately been lower than they were in July, according to Mauro Ruiz, communicable disease manager for the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Public Health Region 11.

Around that time, the region was reporting more than 6,000 new cases per seven-day period, Ruiz said during a news conference call on Tuesday. For the previous two seven-day periods, it decreased to 4,791 new cases and then during the most recent period, it increased to 5,141 new cases.

“We did see a slight drop overall but, if anything, we’re seeing a bit of a plateau continuing as far as case numbers and activity,” Ruiz said, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to show high levels of transmission across most of the state and most of the region.

For that period, there was a 2% increase in total confirmed cases and a 3.5% increase in probable cases for all of Region 11, a 19-county area in South Texas that includes all of the Rio Grande Valley.

While the positivity rate decreased overall, it still increased this week to 15.52% compared to last week’s 13.64%.

As of Sept. 6, there were a total of 7,130 deaths due to COVID-related complications in the region.

On Tuesday, Hidalgo County reported 13 more COVID-related deaths and 255 new cases.

With the additional deaths, the county’s COVID-19 toll reached 3,210, and the case tally is now at 111,069.

The 255 new cases included 104 confirmed cases, 133 probable and 18 suspected.

The county also reported that four school staff members and 52 students tested positive. There are now a total of 381 school staff members and 1,218 students who tested positive since the county began tracking those figures on Aug. 18.

Cameron County health officials reported six more COVID-related deaths and 90 new cases on Tuesday.

The six deceased individuals, none of whom were fully vaccinated, bring the county’s total number of COVID-related deaths to 1,846, according to a news release issued by the county on Tuesday.

The total number of cases there is now at 51,006.

In Starr County, there were 23 new confirmed cases and three probable cases, according to DSHS data. There, Ruiz said there were approximately 64 active cases among individuals 18 years of age or under, one outbreak and three clusters.

Clusters are two or more confirmed or probable cases among workers at a non-healthcare worksite within a 14-day period, according to the CDC.

In the previous seven-day period, Starr County had a 1.2% increase in confirmed cases and a 3.5% increase in probable cases.

Willacy County had five new confirmed cases on Tuesday, according to DSHS data. There are an estimated 10 active cases among individuals 18 years of age or younger there and two outbreaks.

The confirmed cases there increased by 3.3% in the previous seven-day period, while their probable cases increased by 4%.

The number of hospitalizations have also continued to fluctuate.

“They’ve plateaued and they’re stable,” said Dr. Emilie Prot, regional medical director for Public Health Region 11. “We’re not seeing a large decrease in hospitalizations right now so they’re stable, which is good. It’s just too high because we want to make sure that if there’s other emergencies, that they’re being taken care of.”

On Monday, there were a total of 449 COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the Rio Grande Valley, according to DSHS data posted Tuesday.

That is a drop from the 481 hospitalizations reported for the previous day and an even bigger drop from just a week ago when there were 545 hospitalizations on Sept. 6.

Of the 449 hospitalized, 239 were adults. Of those, 198 adult patients were in intensive care units, and 12 were pediatric patients.

Hospitals across the Valley reported a total of 22 adult ICU beds available on Monday which was a drop from the 32 available beds the previous day.

Only two pediatric ICU beds were available, which was actually an increase from the few days that preceded it. From Sept. 8 through Sept. 12, there were no pediatric beds available.

In Hidalgo County alone, there were 295 individuals hospitalized due to COVID-19, of which 272 were adults and 23 were pediatric patients, county officials reported Tuesday.

Of the total patients, 119 were being treated in intensive care units. Of those, 114 were adults and five were pediatric patients.