Hospitals brace for spike in COVID-19 cases after Christmas holiday

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Hospitals in Hidalgo County are bracing for a spike in COVID-19 cases after Christmas — a spike that may be related to holiday gatherings.

In mid-November, Hidalgo County hospitals had about 170 patients with COVID-19.

That number increased slowly but steadily during the past six weeks. On Monday, the number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals reached 282, according to Hidalgo County.

While concerning, the number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals remains below the July peak, when more than 1,000 people with COVID-19 flooded local hospitals.

"A month ago, all the hospitals were down to one COVID unit. Now most of the hospitals are up to one to two COVID units," said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority. "So are we going in the right direction? No. But are we in a safe spot? Yes."

The arrival of Winter Texans, family gatherings during the holidays, an increase in restaurant capacity and the decision to resume in-person instruction at schools all contributed to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Doctors, though, now know more about how to treat COVID-19 patients, Melendez said.

The use of steroids, plasma and remdesivir help many patients during the early stages of COVID-19, Melendez said. Doctors have also started to delay the use of ventilators.

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