Hidalgo County health authority tests positive for COVID-19

BY BERENICE GARCIA AND MATT WILSON

STAFF WRITERS 

Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez is among the latest to test positive for COVID-19.

Melendez said he became aware of his positive diagnosis on Monday morning.

“I was angry more than anything else,” Melendez said. “I have so much to do.”

Melendez said he’s now in self-quarantine, using telemedicine to see patients via Zoom calls.

“It’s frustrating that I have to sit here at my house on Zoom,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s also humbling that I’m not fighting for my life right now.”

“So I’m grateful, it’s just a little frustrating,” he added.

He ventured to say that possibly 27-35 nurses and doctors have been infected with COVID-19.

“I know of four other doctors beside myself that are in self-quarantine,” Melendez said, adding that there were two doctors that were extremely ill. 

He also said that he personally knew of two nurses who had died.

“But that doesn’t mean that there’s not more,” he said.

News of his infection comes at a time when the rate of people who get tested and receive a positive diagnosis is at 9% — an all-time high.

“If you test 1,000 people, that’s 90 people,” he said. “So look at the percentage, that’s the important number, and we’re seeing it dramatically escalate.”

“Cameron County — some days at 30%; the military, sometimes 50% of the people they test will turn positive,” Melendez said. “So the numbers are dramatic.”

Before he found out he was positive for the disease, Melendez expressed the urgency of the current situation during a news conference held in Edinburg Monday morning with Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and several hospital administrators.

Cortez said via text Monday that he was self-isolating after the meeting.

Among the attendees was Robert Martinez, chief physician executive at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health. He had not been contacted by Melendez or the county Monday evening about Melendez’s diagnosis, but acknowledged that he may have missed the message. He said he’s not planning on self-isolating.

“I haven’t been in close contact with Ivan,” he said.

Although Martinez and Melendez were both at the meeting, Martinez said they were physically distanced.

“He had a mask on and I had a mask on, so yeah, luckily precautions were followed, appropriately no shaking of hands,” he said. “Everybody was good at the county meeting, they were vigilant. They spaced us apart, there was gel around.”

Marcy Martinez, spokesperson for South Texas Health Systems, says STHS CEO Lance Ames will also be monitoring his symptoms.

“Lance says he had no direct contact with Melendez and both followed social distancing and wearing masks for protection. He said he will be self monitoring for any symptoms daily to be safe and follow all appropriate potential exposure guidelines,” she wrote in a text.

bereniceg@themonitor.com

mwilson@themonitor.com

 

Monitor staff writer Colleen DeGuzman contributed to this report.

This report has been edited for clarity and with new information.