AG sides with Hidalgo Co. on withholding internal COVID-19 communications

The Monitor has lost an effort to learn more about the internal thinking and preparation for COVID-19 between various Hidalgo County health officials. The newspaper filed a Texas Public Information Act request on March 19, two days before the county reported its first positive case of the virus, in an attempt to learn more about how officials monitored the pandemic’s development and how they prepared for COVID-19 here. On March 24, the county asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on whether that information was subject to public disclosure. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Three more inmates COVID-19 positive at Willacy jail

RAYMONDVILLE — Three more inmates have tested positive as officials continue to work to contain the Willacy County Jail’s coronavirus outbreak. On Tuesday, the test...

Overnight destruction: Vandals damage SPI’s Sandcastle Village

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The scattered remains of engraved sand sculptured hearts and large, themed sand sculptures can be found spread throughout this once...

Willacy County COVID-19 jail outbreak leads more jailers, inmates testing positive

RAYMONDVILLE — The Willacy County Jail’s coronavirus outbreak has infected at least 21 jailers and inmates as officials try to stop the virus from...

Arguing new evidence, defense attorneys call 2007 Donna murder conviction into question

Douglas Tyrone Armstrong walked out of the Sunshine Bar in Donna at 9 p.m. on April 21, 2006. Forty-five minutes later, police arrested him for the violent murder of Rafael Castelan. Less than a year later, on Jan. 11, 2007, a jury took approximately three-and-a-half hours to convict Armstrong of slashing Castelan's throat and stealing his Medicaid card. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Federal jury trials suspended until July

In the wake of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, civil and criminal jury trials have been suspended in federal court until at least July 3. The news came after the three federal judges who preside over the McAllen Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas jointly handed down a special order Monday. "All jury trials (criminal and civil) scheduled to begin from this date through July 3. 2020, are continued, to a date to be reset by each presiding judge,” read the June 1 order handed down by U.S. District Judges Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Randy Crane and Micaela Alvarez. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Sea Turtle, Inc. to reopen today

Individuals, groups and families are now able to visit this local nonprofit’s residents and patients again. After being closed since late March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sea Turtle, Inc. will reopen its facility today. The facility opens Tuesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. and ticket sales end at 4:15 p.m. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Compromise struck on virus relief money for cities, county

Hidalgo County Commissioners went back to the drawing board Tuesday and split more coronavirus relief money with municipalities after weeks of criticism from more than a dozen mayors from across the county.   On Tuesday, commissioners voted to reimburse all cities — regardless of their populations — at a rate of $132 per capita, which eliminated the funding disparity that had drawn the ire of smaller cities and increased the overall funding for all municipalities.  Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said commissioners came up with the $132 rate after calculating some of the countywide expenses that are necessary to fight the disease and keep countywide facilities, like the county courthouse, up and running.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Valley community unites for peaceful protest

More than 30 people could be counted chanting with force. “No justice, no peace,” and “Say his name, George Floyd,” could be heard as a crowd gathered at Harrison and Third streets Tuesday morning to express support and solidarity to the black community in Harlingen. Posters had messages such as, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” and “together we rise” as cars passed by and honked to show support. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

San Benito commission reopens resaca trail

SAN BENITO — After weeks of debate, the city’s walking trails have reopened after a shutdown aimed at limiting exposure to the coronavirus. Earlier this...

Vela statement on Trump’s calls to use military against protesters

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, issued the following statement after President Trump threatened to deploy military troops across the country to end protests. “I stand...

Fashion Statements: Fabric store sees increase in sales due to face-mask makers

Animal print, sequins, satin, glittery and even metallics, are some of the fabric types residents have been purchasing at El Conquistador since the COVID-19...
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Report, footage reveal new details in religious vandalism case

A police report from McAllen Police Department and surveillance video from San Juan police revealed new details surrounding the investigation of vandalism to two different,...

Health officials hopeful of faster turnaround for COVID-19 test results

As laboratories continue to deal with backlogs in COVID-19 testing, state health officials said they expect wait times for test results to decrease with the help of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. A lab at the Edinburg campus of UTRGV began processing COVID-19 tests as early as April but — through a partnership with the state — testing there will help improve the turnaround time, according to officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services. "We're phenomenally improving our testing turnaround time," said Dr. Elizabeth Cuevas, the health emergency preparedness and response manager for Public Health Region 11. "We've brought on UTRGV as a local lab and so, as of yesterday, all of the lab specimens that were collected from our mobile testing sites were delivered to UTRGV in Edinburg." Read the full story at themonitor.com

Staying closer to loved ones

Nearly every day, Debbie Reiley came to see her mother at a nursing home. But more than two months ago, the nation’s coronavirus outbreak led...

Cameron, Hidalgo lose 41,800 jobs in April

HARLINGEN — Cameron and Hidalgo counties lost about 41,800 jobs last month, driving their unemployment rates to about 17 percent — the highest in...

Photo Gallery: Vandalism at religious institutions

The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle was vandalized late Monday evening or early Tuesday morning, May 25 or 26, 2020,...

Rio Hondo man charged in death of teen; police ID victim

A 20-year-old Rio Hondo man is charged with murder in the death of a 15-year-old Harlingen girl whose body was left on the side...

Sunil Wadhwani pleads guilty in hotel project bribery scheme

McAllen hotelier Sunil Wadhwani on Friday pleaded guilty in federal court for his part in a bribery scheme related to the construction of a Motel 6 in Weslaco. Wadhwani changed his plea to guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors after originally pleading not guilty when the indictment against him was unsealed in October. In exchange for Wadhwani’s guilty plea to count one of the indictment — conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud — prosecutors have agreed to lower the “offense level” of the crime by two levels. The government also agreed to dismiss the second count against Wadhwani — honest services wire fraud. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Interest in cycling shifts upward as RGV stays home

When coronavirus restrictions were at their most stringent, roads emptied — along with restaurants, gyms and most other places people congregate. What stayed open, though, were sidewalks, where walkers, joggers and cyclists hit the trail in numbers some Rio Grande Valley municipalities describe as unprecedented. Representatives from the city of Mission say they lack a way to measure the increase, but they have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of residents using parks like the Mission Hike and Bike Trail. “It used to be (just) the bike clubs, competitive cyclists out there,” Recreation Director Brad Bentsen said of the five-mile route. “Now it has gone back to the old family ways. You can just go out there and observe how many people are using our bike trails — it’s all day, every day.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

DHS: Restricted travel extended 30 days again

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday the continuation of the temporary travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico, according to the order. The announcement comes on the day the restriction was set to expire at midnight — 60 days after it was put in place following President Trump’s announcement on March 20 that the U.S.–Mexico southern border would be closed off to “non-essential” travelers. “(The DHS acting secretary) has continued to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 18, there are over 4.6 million confirmed cases globally, with over 310,000 confirmed deaths. There are over 1.4 million confirmed and probable cases within the United States, over 76,000 confirmed cases in Canada, and over 47,000 confirmed cases in Mexico,” the DHS notification states. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Valley’s COVID-19 cases up by 29 as 2 die in Cameron Co.

There were two more deaths reported due to the coronavirus in Cameron County on Monday — an 84-year-old woman, and 69-year-old man. This raises the total number of deaths there to 29. The woman died at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville, and the man died at Harlingen Medical Center in Harlingen, according to a Cameron County news release. County officials also confirmed 16 new cases of COVID-19, making the total number of cases there at 635. The ages of the new cases range from an 8-year-old boy from Brownsville, to a 96-year-old woman from Harlingen.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Answering the Call: Med school grads plan to practice in the Valley

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley recently graduated its first class of students from the School of Medicine. Those graduates entered the program...

Massive fire destroys SPI condominium building

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The Gulf Point condominium building here was destroyed by an immense fire Saturday morning as dozens of firefighters from all...

In Honor: Safe house named after Kimberly Avila

This week marked the third anniversary of the day transgender woman Kimberly Avila disappeared from Brownsville’s downtown. Her family continues to fight for information...

COVID-19 Testing sites and dates

State and local officials are launching Cameron County’s biggest COVID-19 testing program offering 18 sites throughout the month. County leaders are working with state health...

Photo Gallery: WesMer Drive-In returns

WesMer Drive- In Theater movie goers get their snacks at the concession stand on Friday, May ,8, 2020 in Mercedes. The theater, located in...

Valley resident finds pleasure in helping others

Organizer Ruby Fuentes grew up in the Upper Rio Grande Valley. Raised Catholic, she was always involved with her church, St. John the Baptist...

Historic Cine El Rey in peril amid pandemic

Nearly three months ago, Bert Guerra successfully prevented demolition on the historic Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in McAllen.  Now, he faces another difficult fight right on his homestead — keeping Cine El Rey afloat against the raging waters of the COVID-19 pandemic — and he’s unsure of how long they could fend off defeat.  The historic Cine El Rey was built in 1947 as a movie theater and continues to serve the community 73 years later as a performing arts center. Read the full story at themonitor.com