Cleanup from Hanna spurs fear amid COVID-19 surge in Texas

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Martin Garcia sweeps water from his home, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Weslaco,Texas. The Garcia's home was flooded by Hurricane Hanna as it passed through the area dropping heavy rains which caused flooding. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As recovery and cleanup efforts got underway Monday in South Texas in the wake of a downgraded Hanna, worried residents confronted the prospect of undertaking the effort amid a surge in coronavirus cases that has left many fearful about their health.

Now a tropical depression, Hanna was 65 miles (105 km) north of Fresnillo in the Mexican state of Zacatecas as its winds weakened to about 25 mph (40 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. Its remnants still threatened to bring rainfall and flash flooding to waterlogged parts of South Texas and Northern Mexico.

For 66-year-old, Nora Esquivel, who has mostly stayed in her home in Weslaco, Texas, in Hidalgo County since March because of the pandemic, flooding damage to her home from Hanna meant greater chance of exposure to the virus.

“No contact with nobody, only my daughter once in a while, and now with this, I have to allow people to come into my house, the insurance and all this and I’m scared,” said a tearful Esquivel, who takes heart medication and had to be rescued from her home Sunday morning by her son on a kayak.

“All my friends are dying. ... I have fear for my family, for everybody, not just me and this is the whole world.”

In the aftermath of Hanna, which dumped up to 16 inches (41 centimeters) of rain in some parts of South Texas and Northern Mexico, officials reported two people died in the northern Mexican city of Ramos Arispe, near Monterrey, after torrents of water unleashed by Hanna swept their vehicle away. Three people were reported missing in Monterrey and three more were missing in the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, according to Mexico’s national civil defense office.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was sending additional testing supplies and hospital personnel to South Texas communities impacted by Hanna to ensure the storm doesn’t exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“The spread of COVID can be far more deadly than the damage caused by the storm,” Abbott said on KRGV-TV. He planned to tour damaged areas Tuesday.