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Hanna has gone, but virus threat remains in South Texas

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas (AP) — Some areas hit by Hurricane Hanna in South Texas remain among the nation’s worst hot spots for the coronavirus, and the storm made getting patients to treatment difficult.

Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley had more than 1,800 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, with the most recent being as young as 5 years old. The county’s only hospital, which has fewer than 50 beds and no intensive care unit, has been at capacity for weeks. Hanna’s lashing winds and rain grounded medical transport helicopters for days, leaving doctors with no ability to airlift the most critical patients to treatment elsewhere.

Gov. Greg Abbott has said he’s worried that the storm forced people to gather in groups indoors to ride it out, which could lead to more virus spread. Abbott is scheduled to visit the Rio Grande Valley later Tuesday.

“We’re in a dire situation,” Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal said. “If we continue on the same trajectory, countless more lives will be lost.”

Local officials have pleaded with Abbott for weeks to allow them to use tougher enforcement measures to force use of face masks and business closures.

Texas health officials on Monday revised their data collection on COVID-19 deaths, which resulted in nearly 700 more fatalities than were previously reported. As of Tuesday, Texas has 5,713 deaths.

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