McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Coronavirus-related deaths increased by over 430% in a South Texas county after state health officials recently declared that 70 pending deaths as related to the virus, the county’s health authority announced Tuesday.
“There was always a number that was left out in limbo. That has finally been assigned,” Starr County Health Authority Dr. Antonio Falcon said during an online news conference Tuesday, which was also held live on Facebook.
The total number of deaths is now at 117 in the rural border county, up from just 22 reported during the last news conference on Aug. 18, Falcon said.
Falcon said he doesn’t know why there was such a delay in reporting these numbers but said the pending deaths in Starr County had been accumulating since the start of the pandemic. The county has had only three COVID-19-related deaths since Aug. 15, he said.
Falcon also said he wasn’t sure how the state determines parameters required to label a death as COVID-19-related if there were other health issues involved. “It’s basically a clinical decision made at the bedside,” he said.
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera issued a stay-at-home order beginning Tuesday through Sept. 7.
The county of just 61,000 residents will now use the Texas Department of State Health Services COVID-19 dashboard for all coronavirus-related deaths and new cases, Falcon said. That dashboard lists Starr County as 15th-highest in the state for COVID-19 fatalities.
However, that state dashboard showed a discrepancy in COVID-19-related fatalities from what officials in neighboring Hidalgo County reported on Monday. County officials reported a total of 1,101 deaths, but the dashboard lists 986 and ranks Hidalgo County as the third-highest in Texas for fatalities.
Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast, also revised COVID-19 cases this week, with County Judge Eddie Treviño announcing that an additional 637 cases were added to the county’s data on Monday. The total deaths in Cameron County is 526. But that figure also differs from the 657 listed on the state’s dashboard. The state’s dashboard lists Cameron County with the fifth-most coronavirus-related deaths in the Texas.
In general, most South Texas counties are starting to report a drop in COVID-19 cases.
Hidalgo County only reported 10 deaths on Monday, down from 49 on July 21 — it’s single-day record high.
Falcon said there were hospital beds available in Starr County this week, which is an improvement from the 100% capacity they reported just two weeks ago.
Webb County reports that 206 people have died from COVID-19 in the last 55 days, but in the past week, health officials are noticing fewer critical patients. And there is some hospital capacity, Laredo Health Authority Dr. Victor Treviño said during a news conference on Monday.
“We can take a small victory lap. The numbers have gone down the last seven days. But I caution that it’s a small victory lap. There’s much more to do,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said. “We’re not out of the woods until there is a vaccine. Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, but virtually.”
On Tuesday, Webb County reported two more deaths, bringing the total COVID-19-related fatalities to 229.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.