The situation was not always as dire in this rural South Texas county.
Starr County once went about three weeks without a COVID-19 case at the beginning of the pandemic. It banned large gatherings, tested hundreds of residents a day, issued stay-at-home orders and required face masks — many of the same mandates now commonplace across the U.S. The poor and mostly Latino county on the Mexico border was containing COVID-19.
“A model for the country,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said Tuesday — as he shared an update that now appears gloomy.
In April, its aggressive and successful approach to beating the coronavirus was spotlighted by NBC News.
“We are very proud at this point that our numbers are very low, considering we are an at-risk population and the disparity in medical services and our low socio-economic population,” Joel Villareal, mayor of county seat Rio Grande City, told NBC News. “We rank as one of the poorest counties in the nation. However, that does not deter us.”
But after Gov. Greg Abbott issued orders for the reopening of the state, overriding local control and decision-making, COVID-19 cases surged.
Now Starr County is at a dangerous “tipping point,” reporting an alarming number of new cases each day, data show. Starr County Memorial Hospital — the county’s only hospital — is overflowing with COVID-19 patients.
The county has been forced to form what is being compared to a so-called “death panel.” A county health board – which governs Starr Memorial – is set to authorize critical care guidelines Thursday that will help medical workers determine ways to allocate scarce medical resources on patients with the best chance to survive.
A committee will deem which COVID-19 patients are likely to die and send them home with family, Jose Vasquez, the county health authority, said during a news conference Tuesday.
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SOURCE: Fort Worth Star Telegram, Chacour Koup