San Antonio saw a slight bump in coronavirus cases Sunday but reported no new deaths for the third day in a row.
The total number of confirmed cases rose to 1,254, up 23 from Saturday. The death toll stood at 43.
The new numbers come ahead of a week in which local and state officials are expected to make decisions about easing restrictions, which have been in place in San Antonio for more than a month.
San Antonio has continued to log daily increases in confirmed cases, but the number of COVID-19 admissions has remained well within the capacity of local hospitals.
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On Sunday, there were 58 people in the hospital, down four from Saturday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the daily city-county briefing. About 40 percent of staffed hospital beds citywide are available.
Of the 58 in the hospital Sunday, 33 were receiving intensive care, and 17 were on ventilators to help them breathe. Another 40 patients with symptoms of COVID-19 were awaiting test results. About 77 percent of ventilators were still available.
The number of people recovering from the disease continues to grow, totaling 531 as of Sunday — more than double what it was eight days ago.
But Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff urged residents to continue following restrictions designed to curb the spread of the deadly virus, including maintaining a 6-foot physical distance from others and wearing masks in public.
“We are not through with this yet, and the virus is not through with us,” Nirenberg said. “I know it’s frustrating, and there’s a lot of fatigue with staying home. But it’s working.”
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated that he was prepared to reopen “massive amounts of businesses.” A new executive order could be issued Monday.
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The City Council and the Bexar County Commissioners Court are scheduled to hold a rare joint meeting Tuesday to discuss how to proceed, based on local statistics and the contents of Abbott’s order.
Regardless of what comes down from the governor, local officials indicated that any easing of San Antonio’s lockdown would hinge on the advice of public health and medical experts. Nirenberg said that he hopes Abbott takes into account the need for “local latitude” over measures to combat the coronavirus.
Rather than lifting restrictions all at once like a “light switch,” Nirenberg said that San Antonio would calibrate social distancing measures based on how the virus behaves in the community. That may look different from other parts of Texas, he said.
“We are not in a position where we can just open things up indiscriminately,” Nirenberg said. “The last thing we want to do is be careless, and then all of a sudden we see another outbreak in San Antonio and we’ve got to shut things down.”
Reopening will be the most challenging for businesses that have close contact with customers, Wolff said.
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While San Antonio has not yet seen a surge of coronavirus cases in local hospitals, the amount of testing still remains below what health officials would like. Official case counts represent less than 1 percent of the population of Bexar County, fewer than were projected for the area.
Anita Kurian, who heads the communicable disease division of the Metropolitan Health District, said at the briefing that some of that may have to do with the department’s initial prioritization of testing people who were more severely ill and those at the highest risk of developing complications from the virus.
Now that more tests are available, she raised the possibility of extending coronavirus testing to people who are asymptomatic.
“The symptomatic cases are ultimately the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
Lauren Caruba covers health care and medicine in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Lauren, become a subscriber. firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @LaurenCaruba