Is it possible that San Antonio escaped the expected surge in COVID-19 cases following thousands of Super Bowl watch parties on Feb. 7?
It’s probably still too early to say, officials said Friday evening, because virtually no coronavirus testing occurred during Feb. 14 to 19, the week of ice, snow, single-digit temperatures, power outages and frozen pipes.
“It looks like we may have dodged a bullet,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
A “downward trend” of cases that held steady through late February would seem to indicate that community awareness and mask vigilance kept the city from letting its guard down during the big game, suggested Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Most Super Bowl-related cases should have emerged by Feb. 21, with the majority showing up within one week, said epidemiologist Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, CEO of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.
“We may be out of the woods a week from today,” said Rohr-Allegrini, about any freeze-related surge. “But only if we’re testing at a good level. We’ve been testing at about 65,000 to 80,000 a week, and that’s good.”
“My concern is that we just don’t have enough testing data on potential exposures from Super Bowl Sunday,” said Rohr-Allegrini.
And there’s certainly not enough data yet to judge whether the freeze week and its multi-family crowding into the warmest living room available also created a virus surge.
Wolff said he and Nirenberg had sent a letter this week to Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to not suspend his order that Texans wear masks in public, a move the governor has hinted is coming soon.
Wolff said when Abbott stopped the county’s mask mandate last May it spawned “an explosion of cases through the summer.” He said he hopes Abbott will wait at least until this summer before relaxing any statewide COVID-19 guidelines.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to show a gradual and encouraging decline in San Antonio, with 501 new cases reported Friday. Hospitalizations are also trending downward, officials said.
The city’s daily briefing noted six deaths within the past 14 days.
Metropolitan Health District officials said they could not provide a seven-day average on the new case count because there have not been seven “normal” days of testing for the virus since the icy week of freezing temperatures and power outages.
They said 47 new admissions have brought the total number of patients in San Antonio hospitals to 461, with 180 in intensive care units and 100 on ventilators to assist their breathing.
The newly-reported deaths included a white woman in her 80s, a Black man in his 60s and a white man in his 20s, all at Methodist Hospital. A Hispanic woman in her 50s died at University Hospital, and a Hispanic woman in her 60s and a white man in his 50s died at Methodist Texsan Hospital.