McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Over the Easter weekend, the South Texas town of Laredo had two more deaths from COVID-19, bringing this hard-hit area to a total of eight fatalities and 206 cases, officials said Monday.
Nevertheless, during a video conference call with media on Monday afternoon, Webb County Health Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez said strict shelter-in-place rules appear to be working, and despite the recent fatalities, “we may be plateauing in a week or two.”
But Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina cautioned he believes it is much too early to be celebrating and urged residents to continue to social distance, be diligent with their hygiene and stay inside their homes.
“The way we came into this is the way we’re going to come out of this,” Tijerina said. “We have to do this one step at a time. We can’t just turn a switch and it will be over. We need to continue to monitor this and do our part to stay at home and hopefully our sacrifices will work but we need more time.”
“We’re sorry but, again, this is part of this ordeal that we’re going through but we’ll get through it,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said.
Not everyone complied with the shelter-in-place orders during the Easter weekend. From Friday through Sunday, the Laredo Police Department issued 221 citations, Chief Claudio Treviño Jr., said. More than 110 people called a hotline to report activity they felt was not allowed at this time, and Treviño said the majority of the citations were given for residents not covering their faces in public and for unnecessary travel.
The northern Mexico city of Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, has had eight confirmed cases and two deaths, Laredo officials said on Monday.
Hidalgo County inflatable playground sets a problem
Elsewhere in South Texas, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Rio Grande Valley was approaching 400, with six deaths.
Hidalgo County, the largest county with 1 million residents, on Friday saw a spike of 35 cases, bringing the total to 190 with one death.
“The sheer number of new positive cases and the number of those people infected who have a direct relationship with someone who tested positive earlier should tell people why they need to stay home and stay safe,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said.
Cortez said there is also growing evidence that this strain of coronavirus is getting more people sicker. Thirty people who have tested positive are now being treated in area hospitals, with five people in intensive care units at area hospitals.
In addition, Cortez pleaded with residents to avoid get-togethers over the Easter weekend, and he chastised an uptick in requests to his office from residents who wanted to rent portable inflatable playground sets, which he said were not sterilized and could lead to children getting infected.
“County health experts are strongly advising people to stay off these inflatable playscapes, which have become a staple of Easter gatherings,” Cortez said in a statement.
Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast, had 36 new cases on Saturday, bringing its total to 195 cases, with three deaths. During the Easter weekend, the county reported a majority of the cases were at two nursing facilities.
Starr County, west of Hidalgo County, has had seven cases and one death to date. On Monday, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera extended the emergency disaster order requiring residents shelter in place until May 18.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.