Texas Border Business
By State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
Earlier this week, Governor Greg Abbott visited the Rio Grande Valley to see in person the impacts of both Hurricane Hanna and the coronavirus. One of these events alone is challenging for any community, but together, they put a severe strain on our healthcare system and other public resources. While these might be tough times, we are meeting them head-on.
However, we cannot do it alone, which is why I was pleased the Governor announced the deployment of additional resources from the state and federal government to help our community. This aid is in addition to an already deep commitment by the state to help the Rio Grande Valley contain and reverse the devastating impacts of COVID-19. As I have said before, it is going to take efforts at all levels of government – federal, state, and local – for us to stop the spread of COVID-19 and finally contain this virus.
We all know our community has been deeply impacted by COVID-19. This has led to shortages of medical providers, particularly nurses. To ensure we are able to treat everyone in the community who needs it, the Texas Department of State Health Services has provided additional medical staff and equipment for our hospitals. This surge has consisted of over 905 medical professionals in Hidalgo County alone. The state is spending over $100 million per week addressing hot spots across the state, a large portion of which is for the Rio Grande Valley. While expensive, this has been the right and necessary move to keep our healthcare facilities operating.
On top of this significant investment, the Governor along with McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, announced that the McAllen Convention Center will be converted into a healthcare facility to help meet our hospital capacity needs. This facility can treat up to 250 patients and will be equipped with hospital beds, medical equipment and medical staff. Additionally, the state has or is in the process of employing step-down facilities across the state, including in Pharr and Harlingen. These sites allow individuals who no longer need to be hospitalized following COVID-19 treatment, but are still in need of some care to continue to receive that treatment while freeing up hospital space. Moreover, at the request of the state, the federal government is deploying two 85-person U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces to Harlingen and Edinburg to help combat COVID-19.
These are meaningful steps taken by the state and federal governments that recognize the severe challenge we have faced recently with COVID-19 and now Hurricane Hanna. It is my hope that the county will also make the necessary investments in our community with the more than $150 million it received from the federal government to fight COVID-19. This pandemic requires action at every level and from everyone in our community. If we all commit to that goal, we will beat this virus.