‘A pretty deadly time’ — San Antonio reports 16 more COVID deaths in past two weeks; cases top 160,000

Andres Picon

San Antonio officials reported 16 new deaths from COVID-19 over the past two weeks as the coronavirus maintained its grip on the region.

Officials also disclosed Sunday that the virus had been confirmed as the cause of 59 additional deaths between Dec. 4 and Jan. 6.

Since it began in March, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 1,967 people in Bexar County.

“We keep looking for silver linings here, (but) we are still in a pretty deadly and serious time,” Bexar County Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said during Sunday’s city-county coronavirus briefing.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Antonio has nearly doubled over the last month. On Sunday, the figure rose by six — to 1,381 — after having dropped in each of the past five days. Some 138 of those patients had been admitted in the past 24 hours.

Of the total hospitalized, 407 were in intensive care, down from 414 Saturday, and 251 needed ventilators to breathe, one fewer than the day before.

On ExpressNews.com: FAQ: When and where Texans can get the COVID vaccine

For months, city and county officials have warned against complacency amid short-term improvements in daily case numbers and hospitalizations. Despite recent declines in both, the health care system remains dangerously close to becoming overloaded.

Coronavirus patients account for more than one-third of all hospital patients, and only about 13 percent of the city’s hospitals beds are available.

The stress level on Bexar County’s health care system is designated as “high” — just short of “severe” — by the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council.

“COVID-19 is still obviously present in our community,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during the briefing. “Clearly, this pandemic is continuing to take a very deadly toll on our loved ones.”

On ExpressNews.com: The San Antonio Express-News Vaccine Tracker

The number of new cases had decreased in each of the last three days, and that trend continued Sunday as officials reported just 289 new infections. But health officials believe the relatively low number reflects delayed reporting by some labs that process coronavirus tests.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District added 218 backlogged cases from more than two weeks ago. Since the pandemic began, 160,026 San Antonians have tested positive.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases now stands at 1,608, down from 2,071 a week ago. Still, the average has nearly doubled since Thanksgiving, and San Antonio has reported about 60,000 cases in just the past five weeks.

Vaccines

The coronavirus vaccine is considered the best weapon against the virus, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives nationwide. But more than a month after it first became available, a slow rollout has stalled efforts to get shots into people’s arms.

Texas is currently offering the vaccine only to people in the state-designated priority groups 1A and 1B, which include front-line health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, pregnant women, anyone 65 or older and anyone 16 or older with underlying health conditions.

Supply shortages mean that it could be months before everyone has access to the vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, the only two currently approved for use, both require two doses administered several weeks apart.

More than 1 million people in Bexar County are eligible to be vaccinated, but as of Sunday, the county had been allocated only about 235,400 doses. About 72,900 county residents had received their first dose, and about 28,700 people had received two doses, state data show.

The state expects to receive 332,750 doses this week, to be used as first doses. It is ordering an additional 216,350 to be used as second doses.

Bexar County is slated to receive more than 26,000 doses this week, according to the state health department.

For detailed information about scheduling a vaccination, consult this Express-News FAQ.

Additional information about vaccines, testing and more is at Metro Health’s coronavirus website, www.covid19.sanantonio.gov.

andy.picon@hearst.com | Twitter: @andpicon


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