Four Starr County cases of coronavirus have been cleared

Four Starr County residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered from the coronavirus, leaving only three current confirmed cases.

Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority and board president of Starr County Memorial Hospital, said during a virtual town hall Wednesday that the four individuals were released from the mandatory two-week quarantine.

“They have been already released out of quarantine,” Vazquez said.

Only one of the seven total cases that county had required hospitalization, however, he was discharged from an unspecified hospital in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday.

“We are happy to announce that he’s at home recovering,” Vazquez said. “So we do have right now just three current patients that are under mandatory quarantine and they are in their last few days of their quarantine.”

Vazquez added that the Texas Department of Health was evaluating the remaining cases on a daily basis.

“They have been following and monitoring symptoms,” he said. “If they were to be asymptomatic for the 8-day period we had mentioned before, they will be released back to the community.”

Vazquez explained that after a person stops exhibiting symptoms, they are still infectious for eight days.

He noted that all seven cases were travel related and the county has yet to have their first community-spread case, urging the need to continue adhering to county orders to prevent the spread of the virus.

“It’s important for us to keep enforcing the travel restrictions we have imposed,” Vazquez said. “The mandatory quarantine for people who are coming from outside the Valley is a very important tool we have in place to try to prevent further increase in our number of cases.”

The mandatory quarantine he referred to was an amendment added to Starr County’s emergency order on Monday. It requires that anyone who enters Starr County from outside the Valley — defined in the order as Hidalgo County, Willacy County, Cameron County, and Zapata County — is mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Exceptions are made for people traveling for employment, commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response and critical infrastructure functions.

Violations of the order are punishable by up to 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said during the town hall that the county sheriff’s office has, so far, issued 42 citations and arrested four individuals as of Tuesday.

“People need to know that this is a serious thing,” Vera said. “It is of utmost importance that we all stay at home.”

Also this week, Vazquez announced the county would soon begin providing rapid testing for the coronavirus at the drive-thru testing facility.

The county will start with about 500 testing kits which they expect to have as soon as Monday, Vazquez said. But before they begin administering those tests, the kits themselves will be tested for reliability.

“Before we start serving the public, I want to make sure that this test is as reliable as they claim to be so our plans are to perform an evaluation study,” he said.

They will do so by testing five known positive cases of the coronavirus and five known negative cases from Starr County or Hidalgo County.

“The purpose of this is confirming the true positive and the true negative rates that they claim to be is actually true,” Vazquez said.

“We do not want to fall into the problem that Laredo had early on this week and then to have to cancel orders,” he added, “so what we are going to do in advance, before we start testing anybody in the community, is we will perform these evaluation studies on our own, making sure that what is being promised is actually what is going to happen in our community.”