Most young virus cases in Texas county diagnosed this month

Most of the 85 young children in a South Texas county who are known to have contracted the coronavirus tested positive this month amid a surge in the state, a health official said Sunday. Nearly all of the children, most of whom are 1 year old or younger, are expected to recover on their own, Annette Rodriguez, the Corpus Christi-Nueces County public health director, told The Associated Press by phone. One of the children died, but officials are still trying to determine if COVID-19 was the cause, she said. "There's always that concern that you're going to have that one baby like we did that passed away," Rodriguez said. "How many more from this group? What percent will you lose possibly to this virus?" Read the full story at themonitor.com

National debate over ‘Redskins’ moniker hasn’t fazed Donna

Many high schools across Texas, and the nation, have changed their mascot name and logo in recent years — and again in recent weeks — as the debate over what's appropriate and what's offensive fight for the bigger headlines between that and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hays High School in Buda, Texas is the most recent to “retire” its nickname and “Rebels” mascot, announcing the decision Thursday, in an effort to cut all connections to the Confederacy. The move is part of a larger movement that also included the NFL's team in Washington to remove its “Redskins” moniker. Don't expect that to happen in the Mid-Valley, where the Donna Redskins continue to receive support from the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and, according to a statement from the school district, from the community as well. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Politics rear head in local COVID-19 response

The response to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in South Texas has devolved into a political firestorm between the governor and local lawmakers as they fight for control over who gets to call the shots. At the heart of the issue: how to create more capacity for hospitals in South Texas and who should be able to make decisions about the health and safety of the community. On one side, Gov. Greg Abbott and his team of experts believe the best way to create hospital capacity in the Rio Grande Valley is to send more medical personnel to the area and to house less critically ill patients in local hotels. Read the full story at themonitor.com

5 die due to COVID-19 in Cameron County; 326 new cases

In addition to 326 new cases of COVID-19, Cameron County reported five more people dying from causes related to the disease, county Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced in a news release Saturday. According to officials, the individuals were four men, three from Harlingen and one from Los Indios aged 32, 56, 69 and 82, and one 63-year-old Harlingen woman.  The five deaths raised the total number of fatalities in Cameron County to 96.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Reports suggest 10-day turnaround time for test results at private labs  

Surges in COVID-19 testing have slowed down the turnaround time for results at some private labs, according to a regional medical director for the Department of State Health Services. Dr. Emilie Prot, the regional medical director for Public Health Region 11, said health care providers are reporting an average turnaround time of 10 days for test results from private labs. "We've received several reports from local physicians, even hospitals who have used some of our national laboratories — CPL, Quest, and LabCorp — that are having backlogs at the national level," Prot said during a weekly news conference call on Friday. "This comes with a surge in testing requests across the country, not just our area." Read the full story at themonitor.com

Border Patrol, DPS seize nearly 500 pounds of meth

A joint effort between Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety has resulted in a massive methamphetamine bust. A criminal complaint charging a Rio Grande City man named Edgar Lopez with drug trafficking allegations details how on July 12, DPS troopers and rangers seized eight large sacks containing 200 cellophane-wrapped bundles of methamphetamine weighing a little more than 476 pounds. On July 12, Border Patrol agents working in the area of Midway Road in Rio Grande City report that after they saw suspected scouts, they observed several people carrying bundles from the Rio Grande to the Midway Cemetery off of Midway Road. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Abbott decides against Valley field hospital, favors hotels

Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian-organization that visited McAllen on Monday to assess the Rio Grande Valley’s need for a field hospital, revealed in an email Wednesday evening that the group decided not to open a tent hospital here after speaking with Gov. Greg Abbott. “In our discussions with the Texas governor’s office, they informed us that they are supplementing local hospitals with doctors and nurses. They feel that this is sufficient now to meet the community’s needs,” the organization said in the email. “Because of this, Samaritan’s Purse will not be deploying an Emergency Field Hospital to McAllen, Texas, at this time. However, if the need changes and we are asked by the governor’s office to come, we are ready and will immediately respond.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Elderly pilot’s smuggling conviction is upheld

A federal appeals court has denied an appeal filed by an elderly man convicted of attempting to fly four people who were in the country illegally from Weslaco to Houston. Louis Luyten, who was 81 at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to 33 months in the Bureau of Prisons on June 20, 2019, after he reached a plea deal with the government and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants into the United States. Federal authorities arrested Luyten on Nov. 4, 2018, as he was attempting to take off. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Hidalgo Co. reports 27 more COVID-19 deaths; testing surpasses 70,000

Hidalgo County reported 27 more people died due to complications related to COVID-19 on Friday and 451 more people tested positive for the disease. The county is now at 267 total deaths and 10,943 cases as the county surpasses 70,000 tests administered, according to a release issued by the county Friday. "I send my condolences to these 27 families for the loss of their loved one,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez. “Our medical experts tell us the best way to stop the spread is to wear a mask, use proper hygiene, keep 6 feet apart from others, and avoid any social gatherings of 10 people or more.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Court: Trump administration must immediately accept new DACA applications 

A Maryland federal court ruled the Trump administration must begin accepting new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program applications immediately.  More than three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration could not end DACA, a lower federal court demanded it begin accepting new applications. The Obama-era program allows people who came to the country as children and meet several guidelines, to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. The program provides nearly 800,000 immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S., but does not provide a path for citizenship. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Starr Co. acquires mobile morgue as virus continues to overwhelm hospital

Last weekend, Starr County Memorial Hospital received a refrigerated truck that will serve as a mobile morgue if the number of COVID-19 deaths there become overwhelming. Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county's health authority, said the hospital has, fortunately, not needed to use the mobile morgue yet but Starr County Judge Eloy Vera requested the truck from the state. "Basically the situation is we don't have a morgue in our hospital, we don't have a refrigerated room for bodies and the funeral homes are running at capacity too," Vazquez said. "They are finding it difficult to meet the demand." Read the full story at themonitor.com

22 die, 1,248 new virus cases in Hidalgo Co.

Hidalgo County announced 22 additional deaths related to COVID-19 on Thursday, while another 1,248 people tested positive for the virus. The 22 deaths raise the total number of fatalities to 240 in the county. The new cases raise the total number of positive cases to 10,492.  “I am deeply saddened by the loss of 22 people from our community. My prayers and condolences go out to the families and friends of these individuals,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said in a news release. “To those currently battling this disease and who are at home, I urge you to remain quarantined so that you may not infect a loved one or anyone in our community.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Local clinic recruiting patients for COVID-19 vaccine study

A McAllen clinic is participating in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine and is currently recruiting patients for the studies which are slated to begin at the end this month. Valley Medical Arts Clinic is partnering up with Centex Studies Inc. to conduct two vaccine trials, each manufactured by a different pharmaceutical company — Moderna and AstraZeneca. The group is looking for individuals 18 years or older but preferably people who are considered to be at high risk for contracting the coronavirus disease, according to Joanna Gurrola, clinical research coordinator for Centex and thus the person in charge of all the clinical trials there. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Army med task force to bolster hospitals

Hidalgo County will receive additional help from the U.S. Army and Texas Department of Emergency Management after a global humanitarian organization announced Wednesday it would not open a field hospital in McAllen despite a tour of the area Monday. The county confirmed another 35 people dead from COVID-19 complications Wednesday, along with another 651 new positive cases. The additional resources come at a time when Hidalgo County is seeing a record number of deaths that continue to climb each day. Health authorities reported 35 deaths and 651 additional COVID-19 cases Wednesday night. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Officer Garza’s cheerfulness defused any situation, friends remember 

One of the chief tragedies in the slaying of McAllen police officers Ismael “Smiley” Chavez Jr. and Edelmiro “Eddie” Garza Jr. over the weekend is that they never had the chance to talk to the man who shot them. Both men are remembered for their positivity and cheerfulness, by the way they could relate to people, by the friends and family they left behind. Smiley and Eddie never got the chance to fire their weapons when they were shot and killed in McAllen on Saturday, much less to start a dialogue. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Nearly $2 billion recommended to help fund unemployment benefits

A budget working group is recommending that the state issue $1.9 billion in bonds to replenish the dwindling funds through which they pay out unemployment benefits. State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said the work group made the recommendation to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office last week as an alternative to obtaining more funds through what’s called a Title XII loan from the federal government. "The recommendation’s already been done to go the bond route and this will have to be done like this month," said Hinojosa, D-McAllen. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Hidalgo County announces 651 new cases of COVID-19, surpasses 9,000

Hidalgo County confirmed another 35 people dead from COVID-19 complications Wednesday, along with another 651 new positive cases. The new cases bring the total in the county to 9,244. “My most sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of these 35 people. We are doing the best that we can to curb the spread of this virus but we still need your help. It is important that we maintain our distance and avoid all other social gatherings outside of our household,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez wrote in a release. “We are expecting higher numbers tomorrow as the federal test results come in.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Abbott orders flags flown at half-staff as tribute to McAllen officers

Gov. Greg Abbott granted permission to fly the United States and Texas flags at half-staff in honor of two McAllen police officers who were killed in the line of duty Saturday. “Today we mourn with a heavy heart the lives of two courageous members of the City of McAllen Police Department,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said about fallen McAllen police officers Edelmiro Garza Jr. and Ismael Chavez Jr.. in a news release Sunday. “These two officers left an indelible mark on their community and the state of Texas. May God be with their family and friends during this difficult time.” Garza and Chavez were killed Saturday after responding to a domestic disturbance call. Police say they were ambushed by Audon Camarillo, 23, as they were making their way to the home. The shooter reportedly shot himself shortly after.   Read the full story at themonitor.com

103 new COVID-19 cases in Starr, Willacy counties

Starr County health officials confirmed 45 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and are waiting for “state confirmation” on 26 deaths, Health Authority Dr. Jose Vazquez said Sunday. Health officials announced the new figures — which bring the county’s total cases to 1,102 — in a news release Sunday.  Of the total cases, 801 “are recovering under medical care” and there have been five confirmed deaths, Vazquez indicated in the news release.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Two McAllen police officers die in ambush shooting

Standing down the street where two McAllen police officers were shot and killed, a visibly distraught Police Chief Victor Rodriguez was pained Saturday in disclosing the details of two of his officers who died responding to a domestic disturbance earlier that day. Speaking during a news conference held at the scene of the shooting, Rodriguez identified the fallen policemen as officers Edelmiro Garza, 35, and Ismael Chavez, 39. Garza had more than eight years of experience as an officer with the McAllen Police Department, while Chavez had more than two. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Cameron County confirms 358 more COVID-19 cases; 2 deaths

Cameron County announced two additional deaths related to COVID-19 on Saturday as well as its biggest single-day jump in cases. The individuals who died were 63-year-old men from Harlingen and La Feria. Their deaths raise Cameron County’s COVID-19 death toll to 79. The county has also confirmed an additional 358 cases of COVID-19, raising the total number of cases to 3,854 in Cameron County. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Two McAllen police officers die in ambush shooting

Standing down the street where two McAllen police officers were shot and killed, a visibly distraught Police Chief Victor Rodriguez was pained Saturday in disclosing the details of two of his officers who died responding to a domestic disturbance earlier that day. Speaking during a news conference held at the scene of the shooting, Rodriguez identified the fallen policemen as officers Edelmiro Garza, 35, and Ismael Chavez, 39. Garza had more than eight years of experience as an officer with the McAllen Police Department, while Chavez had more than two. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Two McAllen police officers killed in line of duty

Two McAllen police officers were shot and killed Saturday, Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said. “We have lost two brave public servants who sought only to keep peace in our City,” Rodriguez said via text message Saturday. The officers were reportedly ambushed while responding to a call in the vicinity of Queta Avenue and 34th Street. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Ruling: False assassination hoax of fed judge no reason for re-sentencing

In early 2019, the U.S. Marshals briefed U.S. District Judge Randy Crane on what it initially appeared to be terrifying news. People in Mexico were planning to assassinate the judge. Thankfully, a cooperating defendant in a cocaine case named Ismael Lechuga, who was facing up to life in the Bureau of Prisons for drug trafficking, decided to warn the U.S. Marshals of the alleged plot in an effort to see his sentence reduced. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Valley grapples with sending kids back to campus next month

Plans to send students back to classrooms in the fall brought concern, criticism and outright outrage from community members across the Rio Grande Valley, prompting officials to call for more latitude in using online instruction and even a protest here Friday morning. Texas Education Agency guidelines require public schools to provide parents the choice of in-person or instruction for their children when class resumes in August. During the protest, organized by Edinburg American Federation of Teachers, about 30 vehicles driven by instructors and parents from Edinburg CISD, circled the district’s administration building with horns honking and signs displayed that called for a slower opening and more virtual instruction. Read the full story at themonitor.com

25 more people die in Valley due to COVID-19

Nineteen more Hidalgo County residents died due to COVID-19 and an additional 393 cases of the disease were confirmed, county officials reported Friday. Among those who died were residents of Mission, San Juan, McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr and Alamo. Several were in their 70s, two were in their 30s and one in their 40s. “Each day we are losing more of our fellow county residents to this deadly virus,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez stated in the release. “I send my deepest condolences to the families of these victims. Please remember to take personal responsibility for you and family by continuing to use proper hygiene, social distancing, and, most importantly, wearing a mask.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Sullivan City man accused of trying to run wife off roadway after argument

Authorities accuse a 19-year-old Sullivan City man of trying to run his wife and her four children off of the road as she drove to the police department. Sullivan City police arrested Enrique Sandoval on July 1 and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of abandoning or endangering a child. Part of the alleged assault was captured on surveillance camera in the police department's parking lot as dispatch watched as Sandoval was hitting his wife's parked vehicle, according to a probable cause affidavit. Read the full story at themonitor.com

CBP’s June data shows big decline apprehensions

In June, amid a worldwide pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had 65% fewer encounters with people attempting to enter the country without authorization, according to new CBP statistics.  In June, CBP made contact with 30,300 single adults, families and unaccompanied children around ports of entry and another 2,212 were denied entry into the country at a port of entry after being declared “inadmissible,” the numbers show. That’s a 65% decrease over the FY19 June numbers; when CBP reported more than 104,000 encounters, also made up of single adults, families and unaccompanied children.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Coronavirus deaths begin to stress Valley mortuary industry

The evening someone tests positive for COVID-19 in Hidalgo County, they appear on a list the county sends out with the city they live in. A new case with no name, accompanied by their approximate age and their gender. If that person gets better, in a couple of weeks they’ll move to the county’s recovered tally. If they get worse, they may get hospitalized, and the county will shift them over to that list. If they get a lot worse, they’ll end up on a register of COVID-19 patients the county says are in intensive care units. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Sheriff’s office partners with UTRGV to test employees

The Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office reports that 46 of its employees have tested positive for coronavirus since April 1 with about half that number learning they've fallen ill with the virus in the last two weeks. And as cases of COVID-19 surge here, Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. "Eddie" Guerra said his office has partnered with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley for a mobile testing site for deputies and staff at the sheriff's office. "So, we partnered with UTRGV and now we have the medical staff from the detention side, RNs (registered nurses) and LVNs (licensed vocational nurses) that are capable of taking the swabs, so now we're doing it ourselves," Guerra said. "So now any Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office employee who has symptoms or comes in direct contact with someone who is COVID positive, we now have the ability to test them here and get the samples over to the lab and get the results back in 24 hours." Read the full story at themonitor.com