Friday, June 19, 2020

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JUNE 19, 2020 – With the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Rio Grande Valley, the demand on UTRGV’s Patient Call Center and testing sites has tripled since last week.

The call center – which the public must contact to schedule an appointment to be tested for COVID-19 – is averaging more than 6,000 calls daily and is receiving, on average, 1,000 online forms per day.

To help respond to the rapid increase in demand, UT Health RGV and the UTRGV School of Medicine have taken several measures, resulting in improved response times and increased testing capacity, with rapid turnaround on laboratory results.

Michael A. Patriarca, senior associate vice president for Health Affairs and executive vice dean for Finance and Administration for the School of Medicine, encourages anyone who cannot get through on the telephone to submit an online form.

The form is available here: .

“We are again adding temporary and permanent staff at the call center, to increase throughput and improve response time. Our employees in the Patient Communications Center are graciously working late nights and weekends to meet the needs of our Valley community,” Patriarca said.

The increase in the number of calls also means that capacity at the university’s four drive-thru testing sites has had to be increased, so UT Health RGV has been working rapidly to add providers and clinical staff.

“Each drive-thru can accommodate at least 80 patients per day now, and our Edinburg drive-thru is at more than 200 per day, which is more than double our capacity last week, before infections surged,” Patriarca said.

“Our clinical providers and staff are mobilizing to meet this increasing demand. They are on the front lines every day, dealing with the South Texas summer heat, so we must think about their safety, as well. Our goal is to continue to increase testing capacity further over the next couple of weeks across all our drive-thru locations,” he said.

More than 18,775 tests had been processed by the UT Health RGV Clinical Laboratory as of June 18. The number is for all four UTRGV testing sites, plus the testing it is doing for the state of Texas. 

Dr. John H. Krouse, dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine and executive vice president for Health Affairs, said the recent surge in COVID-19 infections is a stern reminder that safety precautions remain critical to prevention.

 “As a community, we must remain vigilant,” Krouse said. “We have to continue to observe social distancing. We must continue to wear face masks to protect ourselves and others. And we must all remember to wash our hands frequently and well. These precautions could protect your life, and the lives of others.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.