‘Hotspot of a hotspot’: Coronavirus in South Texas takes a heavy toll Texas


Seventy-two death notices have been circulated recently on a full page of Monitor newspaper in Hidalgo County.

The small entries piled into five smaller columns do not refer to Kovid-19. But 27 residents of the South Texas community died of the virus that day, 22 days ago and 35 days ago.

“I’ve never seen this happen in my life,” recalled John M. Kreidler, a local funeral director whose family has run Kreidler Funeral Home in Mecklen for over a century.

It was earlier this month, but things have deteriorated since then. The coronavirus epidemic hunts almost everything in this part of the Rio Grande Valley, Where more than 92% of the nearly 900,000 strong population identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Hand-cleaning machines and large bins with masks and gloves surround the shoppers at the regional grocery store. Outside of the Nomad Shrine Club, a spectacular event location replaced the drive-through pop-up, with residents joining a long line of people in cars in search of the Kovid-19 test with rapid results. Even Tex MX, a gentlemen’s club, has a somber message to the patron: “Get dressed again.”

“Rio Grande Valley has become the center of the hotspot,” said Evan Melendez, a Hidalgo County health officer and a practicing physician. “We are at the epicenter of coronavirus in the United States.”

Melendez recently recalled a seriously ill patient with a dangerously short pulse. They tried to warn someone, but the nurses informed them that a different doctor had already decided to intervene because they

“I did not expect [the patient] to survive”.

In the United States, where the mantra prevalent for physicians is “do no harm”, that kind of ruthless calculation hurts deeply, especially when many of the lives at stake are medically weak and easily exploited.

In Hidalgo County – “a poor, obese, diabetic population”, Melendez said bluntly – nearly one in three people under the age of 65 lack health insurance. Thirty percent live in poverty, and a 2020 WalletHub report found that three local cities distinguish the nation as the “fattest” metropolitan area.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity are among the pre-existing conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as risk control for “critical illness” related to Kovid-19. Meanwhile, concerns over excessive hospital bills prevent some people who do not have insurance from seeking medical care. These and other socioeconomic factors have caused the greatest tragedy of the virus asymptotically affecting minorities in the US, with Latino hospitalized at more than four times the rate of their white counterparts.

Hidalgo County also sits along the US-Mexico border, and there are an estimated 102,000 unauthorized immigrants who may be afraid to seek care within their margins. Larger families act as an ideal vector for viruses, as they do. Those still come to the beaches and flea markets on weekends.

Already, 467 members of the community have died since Kovid-19, according to the county, since Texas reopened in May. But the state government has actively thwarted attempts to return to the lockout, even prioritizing economic vitality as the number of deaths.

Leonardo Tremory worries about going to his job inside a Walmart Supercenter at McAllen, but he – and countless other employees – still have work to do. “I have no choice,” he told the Guardian, laughing tens.

Genesis Gonzalez, a medical assistant who works in the Kovid-19 tent. Photo: Hidalgo County / Alexandra Villarreal

Last week, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez ordered residents to stay home and encouraged non-essential businesses to limit their services. But a spokesman for Texas Governor Greg Abbott quickly curtailed Cortez’s authority, saying it was “just a recommendation”. The circling policy Ping-Pong is an extension of a major politicization of a nationwide epidemic during an election year, where the suggestion of wearing just a face mask has become a partisan dog whistle.

Melende said that some people in Hidalgo County believe the current health crisis remains or is over, despite the fact that everyone is suffering from or falling apart from those who died because of Kovid-19 Is on degree. More than 15,000 people have tested positive in the county, and last week, hospitals worked with more than a thousand patients suffering from the virus.

Within a few weeks, Melendez put his sixth-grade teacher on life, opened a body bag to play a video of a son’s farewell to a son who had already died, and stumbled upon a seriously ill nurse The trench he was known for 30. Sal, whom he did not even recognize at first glance. Cutting out individual moments, as in thorny gray areas.

“There is a moral, ethical dilemma everywhere we turn,” he said.

The hospital’s emergency departments are struggling to cope, so other wings have been transformed into Kovid units – even when they are not equipped to do so. A health care worker at DHR Health in Edinburgh, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described patients in the hallway, two people in a room and a “everything at all times,” in a rehab facility that converts between health facilities ” Told. The building is not built to provide so much life-sustaining oxygen, he said, and for once, it simply stops.

“Everyone who is a health care professional seems very powerless,” he said. “We are only trying to help with the terrible resources we can give.”

The explosion of cases becomes larger by the day as new infection numbers in thousands, if not thousands. Although Texas’ reopening plan was based on a symbiotic relationship between testing and contact tracing to prevent the spread of the virus, Hidalgo County’s contact investigation has been rendered ineffective, Melendez explained. There are very few contact symptoms, and many positive test results.

But worried locals look for a diagnosis anyway. At the Nomad Shrine Club, where results take minutes rather than days, members of the public arrive at 2 or 3 in the morning and provide 300 daily tickets for a test. A few blocks down the road, another, competing tents operation, demanded so much that it rented out a large parking lot.

Both testing services charge $ 75 or $ 125. Nor does it take insurance.

Most patients say they are feeling down, said Genesis Gonzalez, a medical assistant who works in the tent. “The next thing you know, they come out positive.”

As Gonzalez baked under the Texas sun, he wore short-sleeved scrubs and a mask, his hair neatly tied. She and her colleagues have access to more extensive protective gear, she said, but some of them get dizzy or faint if they wear it in 101-degree weather.

At yet another test site, Daniel Garza reaches through the windows of the car with his stethoscope. His job is to swab for tests, but he simultaneously prescribes nebulizers, antibiotics, inhalers or Z-Pak because some patients do not have primary care physicians, or cannot appoint an individual right now. Garza said about 40–50% of the tests came positive from the drive-through. Sometimes, she sees people who just lose family members or loved ones.

“I tell you, you know, ‘I don’t know how your loss feels, and I’m so sorry for that loss,” Garza said. “But I am proud to come to test myself so that they do not go out and expose others. This is really hard to do.

At Kreidler’s funeral home, dead bodies wrapped in sheets, then double-bagged and wrapped again lay across the table in the preparation room as there is no room left in the cooler. Cremation is fully booked up to 10 days in advance.

Cridler and his staff, including his wife and son, sometimes work at night without sleep or regular meals. They are constantly in a rush, and each time someone leaves the body, it means another place has opened up.

“We want the epidemic to go away,” said the tired funeral director, who is fed up with how the crisis has been manipulated as “political football”.

“We must stop it – and stop it now.”

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