COVID-19 cases spike in Brownsville; Some restaurants and bars close again due to virus

By Nubia Reyna and Erin Sheridan, Staff Writers

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez announced via Facebook that two additional deaths and 29 more positive cases were reported in Brownsville on Thursday, including a City of Brownsville police officer who tested positive, making it the fourth day in a row with more than 20 positive cases detected.

Records show that there have been 12 COVID-19 related deaths in Brownsville since the city began tracking the cases. They include a 100-year-old- female, a 59-year-old male, 80 year-old female, 82-year-old male, 84-year-old female, 90-year-old female, 62-year-old male, 88-year-old female, 76-year-old male, 90-year-old male, 65 –year-old male and a 67-year-old male.

In a press release, the City of Brownsville announced that an officer began to feel symptoms on Friday, June 5 and tested positive on Thursday. “The name of the police officer and any further identifying information are being withheld to maintain employee privacy consistent with federal health privacy laws,” the release stated.

Officials said the situation is being monitored by the city’s Emergency Operations Center and that it will provide updates as they are received. “This news should not deter the public from calling 9-1-1 when needing emergency assistance. Brownsville Police and Fire Departments continue to take extensive precautions to safeguard community members and other emergency personnel.”

Asked how the department is responding to the news, Police Chief Felix Sauceda, Jr. said that Brownsville PD is adhering strictly to its continuity plan, following guidelines and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, as well as other expert medical advice.

“We developed and implemented a continuity plan, to include but not limited to ingress/egress protocol, exposure flow charts, facilitated testing, and strict adherence to protocol. We leaned on technology to further minimize physical contact, our officers attend virtual roll calls, have technology at their hands to engage in communication with our community members, and the organization has continued to build on varied service delivery options,” Sauceda wrote.

“We will continue to follow our continuity plan, CDC and WHO recommendations, and will continue our unwaivered police services to our community.”

Other cases reported in recent days include an employee with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and employee who works for the Brownsville Public Utilities Board.

Mendez said he has been told a few restaurants and bars have reported employees testing positive for the coronavirus, including Chili’s, which closed its doors to thoroughly deep clean and disinfect for 72 hours.

According to a Tweet from Chili’s, two team members tested positive in Brownsville but no information on whether more employees are going to get tested was provided.

“[Thursday], after learning that those Team Members, who unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19, we quickly closed the restaurant to thoroughly deep clean and disinfect per CDC guidelines, and we’ll keep the restaurant closed for a minimum of 72 hours,” Chili’s tweeted.

Adolio’s also announced on Facebook they would be closing its doors, due to recent outbreaks in nearby locations. They said they are closing as a precaution for patrons and staff.

“The safety of our community and our collaborators will always be first on our list of priorities. As a precaution and due to the recent outbreaks in nearby locations we’ve decided to temporarily shut down our venue to execute a deep cleaning and provide testing for all of our employees,” Adolio’s announced on Facebook.

“When we reopen, rest assured that it will be because we’re certain that the conditions are proper to keep our community and employees safe and happy.”

Ibissa Lounge Bar said on Facebook that due to the high increase of COVID-19 cases reported in Cameron County it is with great sadness that they will be closing their doors to the public until further notice.

“The safety of our staff and our community is and will always be our main priority. Stay safe!”

Mendez on his post stated that he cannot make facial coverings mandatory, he cannot impose curfew and he cannot lock down the city because the Governor’s orders supersede his and Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr’s. He added he fully comprehends the economic impact and the necessity for people to go back to work, but is must be done safely.

“This does not mean we are back to normal. Continued increases in movement and occupancy of businesses will lead to more cases,” he wrote. “I’ve said and done just about everything I could to stress the seriousness of this virus and the urgency and importance of protecting yourselves. Be safe out there.”