McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The South Texas border county of Hidalgo had five deaths from coronavirus and 198 new cases on Wednesday, an uptick from recent weeks that coincides with an increase in COVID-19 cases south of the border.
However, Hidalgo County officials told Border Report that local leaders are “encouraged” by the ever-rising vaccination rate and say the new cases and deaths are still dramatically lower than last summer when the region suffered epic numbers.
Wednesday’s new cases bring the total active cases in Hidalgo County to 1,349, with 118 patients hospitalized, including 41 in intensive care units. Since March 2020, there have been a total of 89,761 COVID-19 cases and 2,844 deaths, the county reported.
The last time coronavirus-related deaths in the county exceeded five was April 8, when six people died and 271 new cases were reported, according to county records.
But county officials said vaccinations are going up daily and 310,997 are fully vaccinated, which represents 49.2% of the county’s population.
They said they aren’t alarmed by the increase in cases because the seven-day positivity rate has stayed relatively flat. Although it is inching up, especially since on May 4, where there was only one death and 107 new cases in Hidalgo County.
Daily vaccination clinics are offered usually at multiple sites throughout this sprawling county, as well as home vaccination drives for special populations.
But it’s the proximity to the Mexican state of Tamaulipas that could be fueling cases, even though Title 42 travel restrictions still remain, which allow only essential workers to cross the border.
And the recent increase in cases come at a time when U.S. officials are being pressured by border leaders to reopen land ports of entry to Mexican nationals to come across and shop and visit with family with friends.
Health officials in Tamaulipas on Tuesday reported five deaths and 43 new cases.
Four of the deaths occurred in or near the border towns of Ciudad Miguel Alemán, across from Roma, Texas; Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas; and across from McAllen, Texas, in the city of Reynosa, where hundreds of migrants are living in a tent city waiting to cross into the United States to claim asylum.
Officials in Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast border, reported 31 new COVID cases and two deaths on Tuesday. This included three new cases in U.S. Department of Homeland Security facilities that are housing unaccompanied minor youth in the cities of Brownsville and Los Fresnos.
Cameron County officials reported nearly 50% of the population is fully vaccinated and 67% have received at least one dose.
Tamaulipas Secretary of Health Gloria Molina Gamboa on Tuesday urged residents to stay home whenever possible, wear face masks in all public spaces, wash hands frequently and practice social distancing.