Laredo weeks away from administering new test kits, might forbid family outings


Hidalgo County requiring face coverings starting Wednesday

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with new rules in Hidalgo County.

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — South Texas residents in Laredo and Webb County could wait up to three weeks for new COVID-19 rapid tests to be administered after they were sent thousands of faulty tests last week, officials said Tuesday.

In the interim, city officials are considering implementing even stricter temporary regulations to reduce the spread of the virus, including not allowing families to shop together. This would be in addition to some of the earliest and most stringent regulations in all of South Texas that this community implemented, including an overnight curfew and requiring residents to cover their faces in public.

Read a Border Report story on Laradoans required to cover their faces in public.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz has the authority to implement even stricter rules and he said on Tuesday that he is seriously considering doing so if it will help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in this border city, which has a very high infection rate and six deaths, which is the most in South Texas.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz might implement rules forbidding families to grocery shop together to stop the spread of COVID-19 (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“This is an ongoing venture that no one expected. We’re upon it but as you can tell we’ve taken the lead in many occasions and it’s proven well. The objectives that we have implemented are for the health and safety of all our citizens. This is a silent killer that has to be taken seriously. Yes we’ve imposed some restrictions but it’s for the common good and we’ve asked over and over for people to please stay at home. If you have to leave it has to be for essential services only, and don’t go together,” Saenz said on a video conference call with media.

Said Laredo Fire Chief Steve Landin: “If you need to go pick up your essentials then send one person only. It’s not a family outing to go to Sam’s or Walmart or the grocery store. Parents: Don’t expose your children. It’s important that only one person goes.”

Read a Border Report story on Hispanic South Texas family traditions of grocery shopping together.

Laredo Health Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez said his agency has received 1,000 replacement tests to make up for the 2,500 faulty tests they were sent last week. However Gonzalez said it could be up to three weeks before they can begin administering the tests because they are missing a necessary part for the COVID-19 RT-PCR test.

“Right now we’re happy to report that the city did purchase 1,000 new testing kits and a new PCR machine,” Gonzalez said. “The 1,000 tests and PCR machine is here, but it is missing one piece that should get here next week, then we start a validation test, which could take two to three weeks.”

On Tuesday, officials reported 125 cases of the novel virus, including a Laredo police officer. Laredo Police Chief Claudio Treviño said his department has issued dozens of citations already this week for residents violating the overnight curfew and for not covering their mouths and noses in public, or for going out for unnecessary reasons.

On Tuesday evening, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, three hours to the east issued orders requiring residents starting Wednesday to also cover their mouths in public, following Laredo’s lead.

“We have aggressive bright people with so many ideas,” Saenz said. “We can overcome. We have the means and the ability. Please bear with us and we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

We can overcome. We have the means and the ability. Please bear with us and we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

One idea they are suggesting is to give their Mexican “sister city” of Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande, gallons of cleaning solution that they are passing out in the city and county for free, Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina said Tuesday.

On Tuesday the county began distributing up to 5 gallons per household of the hydrochloride cleaning solution and he said if international law will allow, he’d like to give some to Nuevo Laredo.

Let’s face it, our back door is wide open and we need to be doing everything we can to help them.”

Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina

“I reached out to our sister city and offered to them if they want to bring some trucks and trailers and start sending some hydrochloride over there, which is most important, because let’s face it, our back door is wide open and we need to be doing everything we can to help them,” Tijerina said.

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