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“Lives lost, lives saved, and those who saved them.” – Rep. Guerra, Sen. LaMantia, DHR Health preparing for first-ever, statewide COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, with event open to the public, to be held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Monday, March 4, 2024 - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: On Monday, March 4, 2024, Texas will observe for the first time COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day as a result of a new state law developed by Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, seen here with Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernández, MD, who serves on the Board of Managers, DHR Health, and as Chief Compliance Officer, DHR Health.  Guerra’s House Bill 2166, approved by the Texas Legislature in 2023, establishes a uniform statewide date to honor Texans who put their own health and safety on the line, especially during the worst periods of the coronavirus pandemic, to keep society from falling apart. In addition, COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day will be a time to memorialize an estimated 95,000 people in Texas who have lost their lives to COVID-19 since March 4, 2020 – the date the infectious airborne disease was first diagnosed in the state. This image was taken on Thursday, January 18, 2024, during the Pharr mayor’s State of the City Address, held at the Pharr Events Center.

Photograph Courtesy CITY OF PHARR


Lives lost, lives saved, and those who saved them.” – Rep. Guerra, Sen. LaMantia, DHR Health preparing for first-ever, statewide COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, with event open to the public, to be held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Monday, March 4, 2024

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“Lives lost, lives saved and those who saved them will all be part of the tapestry of COVID19 Heroes and Memorial Day,” beginning for the first time on Monday, March 4, 2024, writes Joey Berlin, Director, Advocacy Communications with the Texas Hospital Association. 

Every March 4 – the first day that detection of a COVID-19 case in Texas was announced in 2020 – will be set aside for the annual observance, as result of legislation authored last year by Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, sponsored by Sen. Morgan LaMantia, D-South Padre Island, and also supported by DHR Health, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“For health care facilities all over Texas, a day of reflection on the heroes and the fallen of the COVID19 pandemic will tap into memories at polar ends – sadness and happiness, inevitable despair and improbable elation,” Berlin further notes.

Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.

Locally, COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day will take place at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, 118 Paseo Del Prado, on Monday, March 4, 2024 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The event is open to the public.

The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance is owned by DHR Health.

DHR Health operates two general acute hospitals, the only dedicated women’s hospital south of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, and more than 70 clinics Valley-wide.

DHR Health offers the most comprehensive and sophisticated healthcare services in the Rio Grande Valley including – but not limited to – advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley, and as of September 8, 2021, the first 24/7 Designated Level One Trauma Center south of San Antonio.

Guerra: “…a time for reflection and tribute…”

“During the 88th Legislative Session (January 10, 2023 to May 29, 2023), Rio Grande Valley state legislators led the effort to establish March 4 as COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day in Texas,” the House District 41 lawmaker said, sharing the credit with his fellow South Texas legislative colleagues. “This legislation, House Bill 2166, designated that day as a time for reflection and tribute, solemnly remembering those who tragically lost their lives while also commemorating the resilience of healthcare personnel, first responders, and essential workers who continue to serve as our COVID-19heroes.”

As the author of House Bill 2166, Guerra was the legislator who filed the bill and guided it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).

“Filed” is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.

A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both the House of Representatives and Senate of the Texas Legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. 

A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.

As the sponsor of House Bill 2166, LaMantia was the legislator who guided Guerra’s measure through the Senate after it was approved in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 2166 by Guerra/LaMantia went into effect on Friday, September 1, 2023.

House Bill 2166 by Guerra as the primary author also includes Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, as authors.

House Bill 2166 is not a state holiday, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, Guerra noted.

But it is sure to take great significance by establishing March 4 as “a day of observance to remember the loved ones we lost to COVID-19 and to honor the heroes who kept us safe,” said Guerra. “Many of us lost someone we know to COVID-19.”

“We developed the bill without outside input, but worked with organizations representing those many essential and courageous workers and asked for their support and to help encourage their respective senators and state representatives to vote for COVID-19Heroes and Memorial Day,” Guerra reported. “As a result, the votes in the House and the Senate for House Bill 2166 were unanimous.”

LaMantia: “…a reminder of the strength of Texans in the fight against the pandemic.” 

“Throughout the unprecedented challenges of the past four years, our heroes have displayed courage in the face of adversity, continuing to provide critical medical care and access to essential services,” LaMantia said. “COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the strength of Texans in the fight against the pandemic. 

A pandemic is a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease over a whole country or the world at a particular time.

COVID-19 has caused millions of deaths around the world as well as lasting health problems in many who survived the illness. 

Texans such as “medical and health care providers, first responders, law enforcement personnel, retail employees, key federal, state and local government staff members, agricultural, utility, public works, and transportation employees, and many other individuals were heroes,” Guerra explained. “They worked tirelessly and put their lives in harm’s way to keep Texans safe during a time of unprecedented crisis.” 

A total of 8,447,168 COVID-19 cases had been reported in Texas between March 4, 2020 through Spring 2023. At least one in 307 residents have died from the coronavirus, at total of 94,581 deaths as of March 23, 2023, according to the New York Times

Effective on Thursday, May 11, 2023, President Biden declared both the public health emergency and the national state of emergency for COVID-19 to be over.

Abendroth: March 4 “puts us in a position where we don’t forget.” 

Berlin, the Texas Hospital Association’s top expert in media relations, recently interviewed one of the key medical leaders at DHR Health about the importance of this newly-created state ritual.

“That’s how it is for Sherri Abendroth as her hospital system, DHR Health in the Rio Grande Valley, prepares to observe the first annual COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, an official day of recognition that Texas will observe for the first time on March 4,” Berlin stated.

“There are thousands of moments that if I think about them too much, I will cry,” said Abendroth, DHR Health’s Director of Emergency Management. “There were many days and many nights working this thing that you couldn’t help but feel the emotional impact. And then at the same time, there were those moments where you just jumped for joy because something worked, and we had times where we didn’t expect a positive outcome with a particular patient. And then suddenly, they’re better and going home.” 

Abendroth, who oversaw DHR Health’s COVID-19 immunization clinics in the Valley, recalls the “survivor’s guilt” that took hold when a treatment didn’t take and a life was lost. 

Noting that COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic, she hopes that the new day of observance “puts us in a position where we don’t forget. 

“How many community organizations or even individuals dedicated themselves to helping, without worry about being compensated for it, or what they were going to get for it?” Abendroth said. “I think that honoring the people who did it from their heart – it was selfless, it was one of those events that brought community together in many, many ways, and I think that needs to be highlighted, especially now. There’s so much faction (division) and dissension going on in a lot of different arenas that we have to talk about the things that brought us together and unified people.” 

Guerra and LaMantia said all are welcome to join them and the DHR Health leadership and the community in paying tribute, and remembering, the professionals who risked their lives to save countless people from COVID-19, and pay respect to Texans who died from the pandemic, which killed more than one million people in the United States.

For further information or inquiries, please contact:

• Daphne Alcalá at [email protected]; or 

• Stephanie Chiarello at [email protected].

South Texans, including area news media outlets, are also encouraged to register to attend the gathering through the following Internet link:     

DHR Health’s vital contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic were recognized by the governor in a proclamation the governor issued in October 2021.

“As Governor of Texas, I am honored to thank you for your service to the state of Texas as a major vaccination hub. Your hard work has helped to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community while also safeguarding crucial state resources and ensuring the protection of our most vulnerable citizens,” Abbott said at the time.

“I often say that it is not our challenges that defines us, but rather how we rise above them,” the governor continued. “You have demonstrated this ideal through your tireless efforts to serve your fellow Texans, and on behalf of the entire state, I thank you. You truly exemplify the very best of the Lone Star State.”

Physician-Led Healthcare for America (PHA), an organization which promotes, educates, and advocates for exceptional patient centered care through physician leadership, praised DHR Health for their actions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance stepped up when the community needed their help during several COVID-19 surges,” PHA reported on its online publication. “Given the pandemic-induced hospital bed shortage, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance rapidly dedicated COVID-19 units, eventually converting its rehabilitation hospital into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital with more than 100 beds in under 10 days.

“Such is the product of physician-driven innovation – out of necessity – in care delivery,” PHA noted.

More about DHR Health

On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health’ campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance. 

DHR Health was instrumental in working with Driscoll Children’s Hospital to bring the first true freestanding children’s hospital to the Valley.

The new, independently operated eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder, the late Clara Driscoll ( (1881–1945), to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley is expected to be completed later in 2024. 

Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million with DHR Health. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.

On a statewide level, the Texas Hospital Association is encouraging all of its member hospitals to observe COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day on Monday, March 4, 2024, not only within their own hospitals and systems, but also at the community level. 

Suggested initiatives by the Texas Hospital Association for hospitals and systems include: 

• Staff, community or local press events; 

• Tribute videos for local health care workers and others honored as part of COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day; 

• Creating special signage to commemorate the day; and 

• Social media posts. 

Founded in 1930, the Texas Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members’ abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. 

One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents more than 85 percent of the state’s acute-care hospitals and health care systems, which employ more than 400,000 health care professionals statewide.

Widespread support from statewide organizations

Individuals representing themselves and/or organizations which registered in favor of House Bill 2166 before the House Committee on Public Health during its public hearing on Monday, April 24, 2023, were, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Alvarado, Aidan (Self, Laredo Firefighters Association); 
  • Boston, Jessica (Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice); 
  • Dowling, Matt (Texas Medical Association); 
  • Hiller, Bobby (Texas Orthopaedic Association);
  • Hunt, Ray (Self; Houston Police Officers’ Union); 
  • Knaupe, Gregg (Texas Hospital Association); 
  • Milligan, Maureen (Texas Hospitals of Texas); 
  • Morris, Tory (Self);
  • Parnell, James (Dallas Police Association);
  • Quintana, LeRessa (Community Health Systems); 
  • Reed, Dallas (Texas Municipal Police Association); 
  • Rice, Leela (Texas Council of Community Centers); 
  • Streufert, Kelsey (Texas Restaurant Association); 
  • Szimapski, Jennifer (Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT)); 
  • Travis, Clayton (Texas Pediatric Society); 
  • Van Maanen, Cynthia (Travis County Democratic Party); 
  • Vasek, Heather (DHR Health (Hidalgo County);  
  •  Wilson, Stacy (Children’s Hospital Association of Texas); and
  • Yarbrough, Brian (University Health Services, Inc). 


Joey Berlin, Daphne Alcalá and Stephanie Chiarello contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature(

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