Local hotels will begin taking convalescent COVID-19 patients at the end of this upcoming week, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa announced Sunday as the death toll increased by more than 40 this weekend.

Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said during a news conference Sunday that over 1,000 new cases and more than 40 deaths have already been reported in Hidalgo County this weekend — from Friday to Sunday — due to the disease.

Before the end of the evening, the county reported a total of 1,320 new cases confirmed just in the last two days.

Judge Richard F. Cortez also announced he is issuing new emergency orders Monday, despite the fact that he doesn’t have any “enforcement capabilities.”

“But you know what? I dont think I’m going to need it,” Cortez said, noting the community is realizing the enormity of the issue. He asked residents to “voluntarily do the right thing.” 

And while Cortez did not indicate what those orders will entail, he did say there is no one quick fix. 

“I want to tell you that locking down people, locking down businesses is not the sole answer,” he said. “It’s gonna take a combination of things.”

His announcement comes as climbing case numbers and deaths have more than doubled and quadrupled, respectively, since the beginning of the month.

“This week is going to be bad. Next week it’s going to be worse,” Hinojosa warned. 

Still, Melendez and Cortez expressed optimism during the conference. 

“We are seeing some sunlight on the other side of the storm,” Melendez said. “And we do believe there are some positive things coming down the road.”

A U.S. Navy medical team is also headed to the area to help local doctors provide acute care, and it is expected to arrive on Friday, just as hotels begin taking patients, Hinojosa said.

NEW ORDER

The county’s health authority also issued an order on Sunday, requiring residents who test positive for COVID-19 to remain at their residence under a 14-day quarantine.

Under these circumstances, residents are not permitted to leave their home without prior approval from the Department of State Health Services or Hidalgo County Health and Human Services; and no visitors are allowed unless approved by the state and county health officials.

These residents are also asked to monitor themselves for symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, chest pains or vomiting and report them immediately to the county health and human services department by calling (956) 292-7765 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The health authority order also asks residents who are positive for the virus to make a list of people they’ve come in contact with beginning two days prior to symptoms appearing or being diagnosed.

According to this order, these residents can come out of isolation after 14 days of quarantine if at least three days have passed without a fever, and without the use of fever-reducing medications, as well as improvement in respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath; in addition to at least 10 days passing since the symptoms first appeared.

Failure to comply with the order, according to the county, may lead to criminal prosecution under the Texas Health and Safety Code or civil court proceedings.

STARR AND WILLACY COUNTIES

Elsewhere, in Starr County, health authority Dr. Jose Vazquez confirmed an additional 19 new cases on Sunday morning. 

Eleven cases are from Roma, with the remaining cases from Rio Grande City.

Their age ranges from a one-year-old girl to a 76-year-old man. 

For the majority of the cases, the circumstances surrounding how the individual contracted the virus is unknown. Six cases were exposed to the virus from contact with another positive case, while two cases were transmitted through community spread. 

As of now, the total number of known positive cases in Starr County is 1,407. 

Additionally, the county reported 477 cases have recovered, with 925 individuals recovering under medical care. 

Starr County’s death toll remains at five as 32 fatalities are pending state confirmation, according to officials.  

Cameron County does not report their COVID-19 statistics on Sundays. 

In Willacy County, two more people have tested positive, county Judge Aurelio “Keter” Guerra announced Sunday in a news release, raising the total known cases there to 473. 

The two cases are boys either 10 years of age or under.

Monitor staff writer Emily D’Gyves contributed to this report.