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City of Pharr cancels New Year’s Eve ball drop due to COVID-19 concerns

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Pharr city leaders canceled the city’s scheduled New Year’s Eve ball drop due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“Concerned with the spread of the new Omicron variant and rising cases, city leaders know this is in the best interest of the community,” the city stated in a news release.

There's still not a confirmed case of the omicron variant in the Valley, according to Texas DSHS Regional Medical Director Dr. Emilie Prot. 

In the news release, Pharr city Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez urged citizens to continue practicing health and safety measures and reduce group gatherings.

“Our top priority is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community, and the risk of hosting such an event is far too great at this time," Hernandez said in the release. "We urge everyone to continue to take all health and safety measures to help us stop the spread."

Hernandez said even though it was scheduled to be an outdoor event, they didn't want to take any chances. 

The cancellation comes as local health officials keep a close eye on the rapidly spreading omicron variant. 

Cameron County on Tuesday issued a public health advisory, addressing how current monoclonal antibody treatments are not working against the strain. 

"It changed really fast over from delta to omicron and the problem with omicron is it doesn't respond to most of the monoclonal antibody infusions we had been using during delta and before that," said Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo. 

Castillo said 90 percent of the cases in Texas are now considered to be omicron. Only one form of the antibody treatment sotrovimab is effective against the omicron variant, but five major cities in the state have exhausted its supply of the drug and very little remains in the Valley. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said his county has run out of sotrovimab. 

"There's one provider that has a small supply of the one monoclonal antibody that does work against omicron and that's being reserved for the absolute most at-risk patients," Castillo said. 

Castillo believes going into the new year, the Valley will be in the middle of a big uptick in omicron cases.  

"It's definitely affecting lots of people and it can cause breakthrough infections," Castillo said. "So wear your mask, stay away from big crowds, get vaccinated, get boosted."

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