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Amidst new COVID-19 cases, Hidalgo County adds more staff to county health department

To prepare for a possible spike in reported COVID-19 cases, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court approved several measures to supplement staffing needs by the Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department.

The measures were approved Wednesday, the same day the county reported 32 new COVID-19 related deaths and 336 new cases of the disease.

This brings the total number of known positive cases to 20,767 with 881 fatalities.

“My deepest condolences to the friends and families of our 32 Hidalgo County residents for the loss of their loved ones,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said.“Hidalgo County remains at Level 1 Readiness emergency response operations; the County’s highest. I remind you that the best way to prevent infection is to take steps to avoid exposure to this virus. Wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, stay home when sick and cover your cough or sneeze.”

There are currently 579 people hospitalized with complications from the virus; 225 of those cases are being treated in intensive care units. There are currently 4,555 net active cases and 233 people were released from isolation on Wednesday, meaning that they have been symptom-free for 10 days, including three days without a fever.

In a Wednesday news release, Eddie Olivarez – chief administrator for the county’s health and human services department – said a spike in new cases being reported may happen due to the upcoming Labor Day holiday, the reopening of schools and a backlog of cases.

“This expected jump in the number of reported cases only means that our department will become more efficient at reporting new cases,” Olivarez said. “It does not mean that the rate of infection is suddenly growing.”

In the news release, Olivarez explained that local, state and federal protocol requires his staff to follow several steps when a newly positive case is reported. This includes inputting information about the patient, securing legal isolation orders for the patient and other state and federal protocols.

“Multiply this process by hundreds of new cases each day and there is physically not enough time each day to input these cases,” Olivarez said. “This results in a backlog of cases that need  input into our system and, ultimately, reported publicly.”

To meet that growing backlog, the health department has secured help from other county departments to hire temporary additional staff.

These measures were enacted to increase the efficiency of the health department and its reporting mechanism, the release stated.

Starr County meanwhile reported 32 new cases Wednesday for a new total of 2,580 known cases with 1,619 people recovering under medical care.

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