San Antonio saw the second-highest number of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic as the number of hospital patients with severe COVID-19 marched upward, officials reported Tuesday.
Bexar County added 2,303 new COVID-19 cases — second only to Sunday’s count when San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported 3,002 cases reported in a single day.
That brings the total case load since March to 137,407. The seven-day average of daily new cases ticked up to 1,791.
Officials confirmed 11 more deaths from the virus Tuesday. The residents were four white women in their 70s; three Hispanic women in their 80s; and four Hispanic men in their 60s and 80s.
The local death toll now stands at 1,660.
“We are losing far too many of our friends and family to this awful virus in San Antonio,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the daily city-county coronavirus briefing. “So please keep them in your prayers tonight and be thankful for those who have healed.”
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The number of people hospitalized with the virus dipped slightly to 1,426 from 1,433 Monday. Bexar County hospitals admitted 165 new COVID-19 patients within the last 24 hours. Coronavirus patients account for 35 percent of all hospital patients in the county.
But those in intensive care climbed past 400 for the first time since the summer surge. Intensive care units held 403 COVID-19 patients Tuesday — up from 392 the previous day. As of Tuesday, 228 were hooked up to ventilators to help them breathe — one less than Monday’s number, 229.
“There’s a lot of flexibility in the hospital system given the size and volume,” Nirenberg said. “But again, they’re pulling triggers to create capacity every single day.
“At some point, you run out of triggers,” Nirenberg said. “So we have to do what we can to slow down the spread of the virus.”
Officials urged residents to be patient as the city and county administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at mass vaccination sites — and to keep in mind that vaccine manufacturers have only made a limited supply so far.
“It’s not enough, there’s just not enough coming in,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 55,000 Bexar residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine — though local leaders cautioned that those numbers are a few days behind and don’t include figures from two days’ worth of vaccinations at the Alamodome site.
Frontline health care workers have begun receiving the second dose of the vaccine, Wolff said.
Officials acknowledged residents’ complaints about troubles they encountered while scheduling appointments for the vaccine. The 9,000 slots at the Alamodome filled within minutes on Saturday. Residents have complained about crashed webpages and clogged phone lines when trying to book appointments.
Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health medical director, said those problems should abate as the vaccine supply grows over the coming months.
As case numbers and hospitalizations climb, University Health System is putting tighter restrictions on who can visit patients at University Hospital, allowing only visitors “deemed necessary to the patient’s care.”
That includes parents or guardians of patients in pediatric or neonatal intensive care. It also includes “support” persons for patients giving birth or in postpartum care; with disabilities that merit assistance; in outpatient surgery or clinics; or on the verge of death.
Military members who are being deployed may also visit patients.
“I know it’s a horrible, horrible thing not to be able to go in and see someone,” Wolff said. “But I can understand why hospitals are being extremely careful about that. It’s a horrible thing to go through.”