Health officials deny allegations of migrants sparking COVID wave


In recent months, tens of thousands of migrants – mostly from Central American countries – have illegally entered the United States in the busiest region, leading Republicans in Texas to confuse these crossings with the state’s peak in the number of COVIDs – except for these claims do not add up

An anguish trail in La Joya, Texas. In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the US Border Patrol says 210,000 people were arrested and treated in July – this after a busy June of 180,000. The high numbers are pushing the towns in the valley to the brink. from the abyss.

“Just last week we had to issue a disaster declaration because we still have funds from the federal government to help. But we are strapped for resources,” McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said.

The region is also becoming a COVID hot zone – and Republicans are lashing out at the Biden administration – but local health officials say these are baseless claims.

“Is it fair to say that migrants are the cause of the pandemic? Absolutely not,” said Dr Ivan Melendez of the Hidalgo County Health Authority.

In fact, the region’s top public health authority says the migrants tested had a 16% infection rate, roughly mirroring the citizens of the valley.

“Is it fair to say that they are part of it as well as unvaccinated deputations, people unable to get vaccinated, summer trips, back to school? I think they are one of the many factors, ”Melendez mentioned. “Is this a significant contributing factor? Absoutely. “

While admitting unaccompanied minors or families with children aged six and under, the federal government sends everyone back to Mexico under public health laws. Those allowed to stay are treated by the US Border Patrol and given masks. When released, they are tested by charities and local authorities.

Sister Norma Pimentel runs the Catholic Respite Center in McAllen. It is a short-term stage where migrants can find their bearings before leaving to reunite with their families across the United States.

“We need to continue to work and support each other in our response to properly care for these immigrants while they are here in our community, so that we can take care of them properly and make sure we are safe in our community, ”said Pimentel. .

The charity is testing everyone for COVID before admission. Lately, there have been so many people that he had to cap attendance.

Pimentel said: “I have seen more and more people drop us off than ever before.”

Things came to a head in late July when residents of La Joya, Texas complained about visibly ill migrants at a fast food restaurant.

“What was presented as fact was wrong,” said Pimentel. “It’s hard to correct because now everyone is afraid of immigrants and they think they are spreading COVID when in reality they are not.”

But the outcry over social media prompted officials to change course and not allow sick people to self-quarantine in hotels.

“Now it’s a little different,” Mayor Villalobos said. “Now we get over eighteen hundred. And then, added to the fact that the COVID rate has gone from about four to five now to over 15%, they can’t be moved. So we have a number. higher population, higher number of COVIDs. So they need to be isolated. “

Instead of hotels, sick migrants will now be quarantined in a park, which is now an emergency tent camp.

Hidalgo County Commissioner Everardo Villarreal said: “It’s a federal problem. It’s not our problem. I’m not here for immigrants. I’m responsible and what I’m doing is is to protect the health and safety of the residents I represent, who are residents of Hidalgo County. “

As of Tuesday, 1,200 migrants – most of them positive for COVID – had been in quarantine for two weeks. Hidalgo County expects 2,000 by the end of the week. But the open secret is this: Once the federal government releases migrants – usually with a court date – no one has the power to detain them if they are acting legally.

A woman who did not want to be identified for security reasons said her connections were in the camp.

“I came to pick up my brother-in-law’s family. It’s mom, dad and two children,” she said. “We just want to get them out so they can eat. Especially the two little kids.”

Texas public health experts echo the Hidalgo County Public Health Authority. The new arrivals are not the cause of the COVID-19 spike in the Lone Star State. This is the unvaccinated variant and the Delta variant.

This story was originally reported on Newsy.com


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