Starr County announced Friday it would be extending its stay at home emergency order for another month.
The order, which officially went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 1.
Under the order, all residents are ordered to shelter at home in their place of residence and the county curfew remains in place.
The order was announced the day after a Thursday virtual press conference with Starr County officials who announced a positive trend in the amount of COVID-19 cases in the county.
Thalia Muñoz, an administrator for Starr County Memorial Hospital, reported that as of Thursday, there were no more patients in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit.
“We had one [patient] who was discharged yesterday after doing well so fortunately things are looking better and better,” Muñoz said. “We have seen less and less patients and things are looking better.”
The hospital’s COVID-19 unit, which has an occupancy of 27 patients, was created last summer when the county began seeing a surge in COVID-19 that became nationwide news for being a Texas county with one of the highest COVID-19 positive rates.
The hospital, which has no intensive care unit, had to transfer patients to hospitals as far as New York for treatment.
“We had people waiting outside, in ambulances, because we couldn’t put them in a safely contained area to keep them from getting others sick,” Dr. Javier Margo, an emergency room physician for the county hospital recalled. “We’d literally had to keep some of them in ambulances, it was the safest place for them and everyone else… It was a tough time for all of us but it’s better now. Everyone has been doing their part and following the recommendations of washing their hands.”
On Friday, the county reported four new positive cases of the disease in the county with 480 active cases, 3,140 recoveries and 169 fatalities.
“We are still seeing patients coming in every day with COVID, but nowhere near as many we were seeing a month ago,” Margo said, adding that people experiencing a fever, shortness of breath or a flu-like symptoms should contact the hospital or the county COVID-19 hotline at 956-487-5561.
In the last two weeks, the county has seen a total of 144 new COVID-19 cases, Starr County Health Authority Dr. Antonio Falcon, adding that 53 of those cases have come from the last seven days.
“The hospital is able to take patients as needed quite easily, we haven’t seen a bump in new cases we were concerned about from Labor Day,” Dr. Falcon said.
Falcon and Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said at the press conference that even with the positive trend in the decrease of new cases, the county would continue to monitor the situation
“We’re concerned with the athletics opening up and schools with students going back so that’s one reason why we’re keeping the order in place,” Vera said of the order. “It will be reviewed in a week or 2 and if determined if it’s no longer needed then of course we will lift it.”
Falcon, who said the county would begin identifying the amount of people under the age of 19 who have tested positive for COVID-19 to area school district superintendents, said September saw 137 people in that age range tested positive for the disease.
“They can decide what their next course of action will be,” Vera said of the superintendents, adding that he believes school districts will request waivers to delay the start of in-person learning.