EDINBURG — Federal aid in Hidalgo County’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to arrive here sometime next week and conduct a significant amount of testing at Bert Ogden Arena and H-E-B Park.
Testing will be performed by personnel with the U.S. Public Health Service, whose Commissioned Corps is a branch of the nation’s uniformed services devoted to health.
The testing venue was confirmed by Shalimar Madrigal, spokesperson for Bert Ogden Arena.
A county official said Thursday that Hidalgo County is just one of three such testing sites nationally and the only one in Texas, and that the new testing would be performed simultaneously with ongoing state testing performed by the Texas National Guard.
Cortez said Wednesday morning that he expected the contingent to be able to test 5,000 residents a day.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, addressed the news in a statement Thursday evening.
“I welcome the U.S. Public Health Service to South Texas and their aid to increase our testing capacity and combat the coronavirus. The skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in Texas are due to the State’s overly-aggressive and failed reopening strategy,” Gonzalez wrote.
As of Thursday, Hidalgo County has confirmed 4,520 cases of COVID-19, 57 of which have proved fatal. There are currently 451 individuals hospitalized with complications from the virus, 104 of whom are in intensive care units.
“Recent decisions to implement a mask mandate for some counties and request help from the federal government are steps in the right direction, but they are not enough,” Gonzalez stated. “Municipalities must be allowed the flexibility to respond to this pandemic and it’s my hope the Governor will see reason and grant these counties their emergency authority. The Governor should issue a statewide order for Texans to wear masks in public immediately and urge them to stay home.
“A patch job response will not curb the spread of this virus. The facts are that we need a statewide policy to get us through this pandemic healthy, safe and alive.”
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Wednesday that the Trump administration had re-established the Ready Reserve Corps of the USPHS under the auspices of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. According to a release, USPHS is deploying over two-thirds of its force to fight the pandemic.
“Creating a Ready Reserve for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will improve our capability to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and future public health emergencies,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the release. “One of HHS’s paramount responsibilities is to protect Americans from public health threats like infectious diseases, and Congress and the Trump Administration have come together to give us a new capability for accomplishing that mission with the Ready Reserve. The men and women of the Commissioned Corps have effectively protected Americans’ health for more than a century, and having a reserve element will prepare them for another century of lifesaving service.”
Vice President Mike Pence addressed USPHS personnel at their headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, on Tuesday.
“But I must tell you that when I think of what you’ve done over the last several months — whether it be administering to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, repatriating Americans on our military bases, assisting community-based testing sites all across the country — really, the more than 4,500 Commissioned Corps officers have responded to America’s call for help, and more than 1,800 are on active duty deployment even as we speak,” Pence said according to a transcript of his remarks. “And the Ready Reserve Corps is going to make sure that the U.S. Public Health Service is even more ready for the days that come for the American people.”