San Antonio and Bexar County officials reported two new coronavirus deaths Thursday, along with 242 newly diagnosed cases.
The numbers of cases and patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have been falling steadily since a peak in mid-January.
Gov. Greg Abbott cited the trend in announcing earlier this week that Texans will no longer be required to wear masks starting next Wednesday and that businesses can resume operating at 100 percent capacity. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff both denounced the move as premature and risky.
“Those numbers are moving in the right direction, but as we’ve reminded you throughout this week, especially with the orders from the state, please do not let your guard down,” Nirenberg said Thursday during the coronavirus briefing he and Wolff hold each day. “Keep your mask up and protect yourself and others from this virus.”
The two latest COVID-19 deaths in Bexar County involved a white man in his 30s who died at home and a white woman in her 50s who died at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, city officials said. Both died in the past two weeks.
Six other deaths were reported earlier this week, according to updated numbers posted by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
Since the start of the pandemic a year ago, at least 2,678 people have died from the virus in Bexar County. An additional 255 COVID deaths reported by the state are under investigation by Metro Health.
The city’s coronavirus risk level is now classified as “mild” and “improving.” And its seven-day rolling average of new cases now stands at 329 per day. A month ago, the average was 1,463 per day.
The 242 newly diagnosed cases reported Thursday underscore the improvement. On Feb. 1, around the peak of the winter surge, public health officials reported nearly 10 times as many new cases — 2,376.
On Thursday, San Antonio hospitals were treating 368 patients with COVID-19, the lowest number since early November. That is a fraction of the high reached on Jan. 18, when 1,520 patients were hospitalized with the disease. It’s also a great improvement from two weeks ago, when 695 COVID patients were in area hospitals.
Among those hospitalized Thursday, 136 were in intensive care units and 72 were on ventilators to help them breathe.
Those numbers also have improved in the past two weeks. On Feb. 18, 257 COVID patients were in San Antonio ICUs and 149 were on ventilators.
Vaccinations are continuing, but the numbers are far below what is needed for “herd immunity,” which requires 75 to 85 percent of the population to be resistant to the virus.
As of Wednesday, 265,927 Bexar County residents had received their first dose of the COVID vaccine and 155,385 residents had been fully vaccinated, Nirenberg said.
The city expects to receive more shipments of vaccine next week, which will allow officials to continue the mass vaccination operation at the Alamodome, the mayor said.
WellMed, which operates vaccination sites at two senior centers, will reopen its phone hotline at 8 a.m. Friday to allow qualified people to make appointments. The number is 833-968-1745.
Since the pandemic began a year ago, 197,497 COVID cases have been reported among Bexar County residents.
Some 187,150 people had recovered as of Feb. 23, according to Metro Health data. That is a recovery rate of about 95 percent. As of the same date, an estimated 3,819 Bexar County residents were still ill.
In nearby Comal County, public health officials reported 17 newly diagnosed COVID cases and eight backlogged cases Thursday. No new deaths were reported.
Comal County has 343 active cases of the virus. Public health officials reported that 45 county residents sick with the virus were being cared for in hospitals Thursday.
Since the start of the pandemic, 9,246 Comal County residents have tested positive for the virus; 8,609 of them have recovered, a recovery rate of 93 percent.
Across Texas, nearly 7,000 newly confirmed cases of the virus were reported Thursday, along with 315 more deaths. During the pandemic, more than 2.6 million Texans have tested positive for the virus, while more than 362,000 others have contracted probable cases.
Almost 44,000 Texans have died of COVID.
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