[EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with coronavirus data from Wednesday for Cameron County.]

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The county judge for the most populated South Texas county has again come down with COVID-19, as the number of cases in the border region continues to spike.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez was isolating at home under doctor’s care after announcing Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He is fully vaccinated and boosted, and last caught coronavirus in December 2020.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez is seen in his office in August 2021 in Edinburg, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“I was feeling a little under the weather and a routine COVID test came back positive,” Cortez said. “This is a reminder that everyone should get tested if they experience even mild symptoms.”

On Wednesday, Hidalgo County reported 385 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths.

Hospital beds are quickly filling up, with 457 people in area hospitals, including 89 adults and three children in intensive care units.

Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast and just east of Hidalgo County, also is reporting continued spread of the virus, as well as the omicron variant. On Wednesday, there were 257 new cases and six deaths.

(Graphic by Cameron County)

The county is urging all residents to report their coronavirus test results. Because so many are doing at-home tests right now, county officials have launched a campaign to encourage more self-reporting, in order for health officials to better track where the virus is spreading.

And they have added a new column indicating “at home tests” to their daily coronavirus graphic.

(Graphic by Cameron County)

The Texas Medical Association reported statewide there were 35,572 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, and the organization also urged more self-reporting from those testing at home for the virus.

“This wave of omicron COVID-19 infection is causing severe disease in many people, so we need testing results to help us make wise decisions about how to protect and care for ourselves and those around us,” said Dr. Donald Murphey, chairman of TMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, and a member of the TMA COVID-19 Task Force. 

The most reliable tests are called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, but those can only be administered by a healthcare professional and results take a few days to come back.

At-home tests are rapid antigen tests and give results in less than an hour. The TMA suggests testing within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms or five days after exposure to someone with coronavirus. This test also should be repeated if symptoms occur and a test gives negative results.

Tips for isolating and testing can be found on the TMA webpage.

On Wednesday, Texas Sen. José Menéndez, a Democrat from San Antonio, sent Texas Gov. Abbott a letter requesting that all upcoming State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STARR, benchmark tests be suspended due to the surge in coronavirus cases statewide.

“Our schools are facing a crisis during this COVID-19 omicron surge as it continues to drive record numbers of infections around our state,” Menéndez wrote.

Hidalgo County reported Wednesday there have been a total of 1,079 coronavirus infections at area schools including 782 students.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at ssanchez@borderreport.com.