Novel coronavirus cases jump to 2,418 in San Antonio area; hospital numbers improve

Diego Mendoza-Moyers

Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Saturday said he plans to push for the city to provide a living stipend for people who take part in the city’s worker retraining initiative.

Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff offered details during the city-county COVID-19 briefing on their plans to provide training and living expenses for thousands of unemployed workers in San Antonio, suburban cities and unincorporated areas.

During Saturday’s briefing, Nirenberg reported 26 new cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the total number in Bexar County to 2,418.

No new deaths were reported; the death toll stood at 66.

In talking about the worker training plans, which will be funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, officials noted Bexar County will offer a $450 weekly stipend for an estimated 5,000 workers.

Nirenberg said the city may offer a similar stipend.

“I think the county is doing it the right way, and I hope our council and I believe our council will be following in a very similar manner,” Nirenberg said.

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The CARES Act money has to be spent by the end of this year — a timeline Wolff suggested was too brief. He said Congress should allow local governments more time to disburse the money.

“We’re working really hard to try to put together these pieces of job training,” Wolff said. “We’re hoping that we’re able to get more time that would give us the ability to go beyond December the 31st. Because it’s going to take a little longer to do the right job training.”

Improving numbers

Nirenberg said the hospital numbers are improving again; there were 70 people with the virus in the hospital, down from 73 Friday. Of those, 38 were in intensive care and 19 were on ventilators to help them breathe.

That left 76 percent of ventilators and 32 percent of staffed hospital beds available citywide.

“That’s a good indicator that it’s stable,” Nirenberg said. “We’d love to see the numbers keep going down.”

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Testing continued at sites across the city, Nirenberg said, as well as at nursing homes, in accordance with Metro Health’s plan and Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive.

As of Friday night, public, private and government labs had tested 52,581 people in Bexar County since the pandemic began here in mid-March. Overall, the positivity rate is at 5.2 percent.

Metro Health and the San Antonio Fire Department have tested 100 percent of the residents and staff at 38 of the area’s 65 nursing homes, Nirenberg said. Most of the tests have turned out to be negative for the virus.

Nine nursing homes, however, have had at least one resident or staff member who tested positive. Overall, 23 residents and one employee of local nursing homes who were infected with the virus have died.

Nirenberg said testing was up at the city’s two walk-up testing facilities. At Palo Alto College, 200 tests were administered Saturday. Another 141 people were tested at the Nellie Redix Center on the Northwest Side, below the site’s capacity of 175 daily tests.

Also at Saturday’s briefing, Nirenberg said the city received several complaints about businesses not following reopening guidelines after Gov. Greg Abbott allowed bars in Texas to reopen at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning.

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“We did definitely see reports of some bars that were not adhering to the 25 percent occupancy limits or physical distancing measures,” Nirenberg said. “I want to be very clear: that 25 percent occupancy limit is an order of the governor, and it’s enforced here at the local level.”

Residents can report violations by calling 210-207-7273.

Nirenberg stressed the importance of wearing a mask and following other Metro Health guidelines during the Memorial Day weekend such as maintaining the 6-foot social distance from others not of the same household and washing hands frequently to ensure there’s no resurgence of the virus locally.

“If those folks who are very anxious about getting this community back open again and enjoying all those activities, if that’s our interest, then we need to pay double attention to the guidelines of our Metro Health department and our public health officials,” Nirenberg said, holding up his mask.

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