RGV legislators create law to remember lives lost during pandemic

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The efforts of Rio Grande Valley legislators earlier this year resulted in the creation of a “COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day,” which will honor individuals who lost their lives to the coronavirus along with healthcare personnel, first responders and essential workers who labored through the pandemic.

HB 2166, signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June and enacted this month, sets March 4 as the memorial day to be observed with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

COVID-19 first arrived in the Rio Grande Valley in March of 2020.

By July, the Valley had become a virus hotspot attracting national attention, as hospital beds ran short and morgues filled.

Rep. R. D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, said he introduced the memorial day legislation with those early days of the pandemic in mind.

“I filed HB 2166 because I wanted the people who kept us safe during the terrifying early days of COVID to be remembered and I wanted people who lost their lives to be honored,” he wrote. “We’ve learned about and adapted to COVID, but it’s easy to forget how chilling those first months were and how selfless certain workers were to keep the rest of us safe. They deserve to be recognized forever.”

Deaths related to the coronavirus have significantly lessened over the past two years.

Hidalgo County alone reported this month an overall total of 4,172 fatalities related to the virus.

McAllen fire and police personnel prepare to ring a bell during a prayer service commemorating those who died of COVID-19 on Monday, March 21, 2022, at the Edinburg Conference Center in March 2022. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

”With profound significance, COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day will hold a special place in the hearts of the South Texas community. The coronavirus pandemic has deeply impacted our region, where low hospital capacity and limited resources posed immense challenges. Yet, amidst these trials, our heroes emerged —dedicated medical and healthcare providers, first responders, and essential workers who valiantly faced the crisis head-on, risking their own safety to keep our communities protected,” Sen. Morgan LaMantia, who sponsored the bill in the senate, wrote in a statement.

LaMantia said the observance will serve as a somber reminder of the lives lost during the pandemic.

“As we honor this day of observance, we come together to remember and cherish those we have unfortunately lost. The nearly 95,000 Texans whose lives were tragically cut short since March 4, 2020 serve a somber reminder of the battles fought and the memories that linger on. This chapter in our history was marked by profound sorrow and heartache and will leave a lasting impact on our communities.”

In addition to Guerra and LaMantia, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. was listed as an author on the legislation.