State health officials confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Hidalgo County just days after Mayor Armando O’Caña urged the Mission community to be wary of the newer and more contagious COVID-19 strain.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez announced that a 33-year-old unvaccinated male tested positive for COVID-19 while he was hospitalized out of state. The man returned home to Hidalgo County, then traveled to North Texas where he was hospitalized again and it was determined he contracted the Delta variant.
At a Mission City Council meeting earlier in the week, the Mission mayor warned the community about the severity of the new strain. That same day, the Hidalgo County Health Department reported the death of two Mission men in their 60s as a result of contracting the COVID-19 virus, along with 172 new positive cases in Hidalgo County.
As of July 13, there have been 178,060 vaccine doses administered in Hidalgo County, causing a decrease in daily death tolls. However, the county is still reporting fatalities. Before July 12, the last reported Mission resident that had a COVID-related death was a woman in her 70s on July 7.
After months of providing updates on COVID-related news at Mission City Council meetings, the city manager’s office stopped reporting on the longstanding talking point. But O’Caña said he wants the public to know the City is still keeping a watchful eye on the situation.
“So just because the item is not on the agenda, we want to make sure that we don’t rest on COVID-19. We’re still having deaths in our county,” the mayor said.
The Delta variant is a strain of SARS-COV-2 that originated in India but has already spread to other parts of the world, including the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, the Delta variant — also known as B.1.617.2 — is now the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for more than 50 percent of the cases in the country.
“We received word that the variant Delta is getting closer and closer to our area. And keep in mind that the variant Delta is not the same thing as [SARS-COV-2],” O’Caña said at the city council meeting.
Health experts have said symptoms for Delta look similar to the original coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic. However, what sets the new strain apart is its mutation on the spike protein that makes it easier to infect human cells. Areas with low vaccination rates are taking the biggest hit from the new strain. Parts of northern Texas are already seeing the effects of the Delta variant, including Houston, Dallas County and Tarrant County in Fort Worth. As of July 12, 42.2 percent of Texans are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. For Texas to reach herd immunity from the virus, experts say the state has to have a minimum of 75 percent of its people fully vaccinated.
As of July 15, Mission still leads the county in total confirmed cases with 16,858 positive tests since the start of the pandemic, according to the Hidalgo County Health and Human Services report. O’Caña said the City of Mission will be doing quality assurance checks on any COVID-prevention equipment to ensure everything is still properly functioning. The City has also budgeted $650,000 of American Rescue Plan funds for public health issues.
“We need to ensure that our city is safe,” the mayor said. “All the strategies and all the money…equipment, we need to make sure that is maintained and kept and that it is used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the variant Delta from coming into Mission.”