COVID-19 cases on upward trend in Hidalgo County

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A COVID-19 outbreak is happening from coast to coast in the U.S., and health experts say it’s largely because of the omicron variant.

Though the omicron variant hasn’t been officially confirmed in any of the four Valley counties, Hidalgo County is reporting a record number of single-day infections.

The county on Thursday reported two coronavirus-related deaths and 600 new positive cases. So far this week, the county has reported 1,347 new infections.

RELATED: Hidalgo County reports two coronavirus-related deaths, 600 positive cases  

When asked if the increase in positive cases is due to more testing, Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said getting data to answer that question is difficult, if not impossible. Still, Dr. Melendez says this is a time of concern.

“Today, right now, for the next couple of weeks, I think the numbers will be scary,” Melendez said.

A new concern has been set off by the omicron variant.

“Even though it is less infectious, supposedly, because that’s what they’re saying. We haven’t proved it,” Dr. Melendez said. “That doesn’t matter. That’s still a lot of people that are turning positive that are ending up in the hospital.”

With a total of 88 COVID-19 patients now hospitalized in Hidalgo County as of Thursday, Dr. Melendez estimates that hospitalizations will likely surpass 100 before the new year. Concerned about the omicron variant, communities like the city of Pharr have already canceled their annual celebration.

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

Data from the county’s daily COVID-19 report shows that it’s those in their twenties who made up for more than 25 percent of 600 reported cases.

New Year’s Eve is potentially setting up the groundwork for more cases.

"We know that these numbers are going to explode,” Dr. Melendez said. “Yes, it's young people because young people are the ones being tested.”

More people are getting tested, but Melendez says it’s difficult to quantify how many. Shortages of at-home COVID-19 test kits illustrate that the number has grown.

Sotrovimab is the only monoclonal antibody treatment that’s been proven effective against the omicron variant and it’s in limited supply.

RELATED: COVID antibody treatment facing supply shortage  

Channel 5 News asked Melendez if the federal, state or local government fell short in their response. He says when it comes to testing, the answer is yes.

“But is it really a lack of responsibility to be able to determine which monoclonal antibody is going to work, which one isn't, how is the virus going to mutate? I don't think you can plan for all scenarios," Dr. Melendez said.

The Biden administration is said to be making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests to be given to the public for free. The first delivery is expected in early January, but the details about that operation are still being worked on.


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