San Antonio leaders keep eye on upward drift of new coronavirus cases

By Sig Christenson, Staff writer

San Antonio and Bexar County added 247 new coronavirus cases, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported Friday, but continued to avoid the skyrocketing increases seen across the country.

No new deaths were reported here, but a large unknown loomed.

“The big question is, are we at the beginning of a surge?” said Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health’s medical director. “We are creating our own sort of index, actually, and I think — we put out a lot of new data Monday, so I guess we’ll definitely have a better idea on Monday anyway with the new positivity rate what’s going on, but we’re worried.”

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The news elsewhere across the nation was worrisome, too, with Johns Hopkins University tracking a steady increase in new cases that topped 71,671 as the work week ended.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said total cases in the San Antonio area since pandemic arrived in March came to 64,261. In all, 208 patients were in the hospital, with 85 in intensive care units and 36 on ventilators.

That compared with 209 hospitalized Thursday, 34 in ICU beds, 42 on ventilators and no deaths reported.

Two deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing Bexar County’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 1,232, including nearly 250 residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Metro Health said 154 deaths were under investigation, up by one from Thursday.

The local seven-day rolling average of new cases stood at 177, slightly higher than 168 reported Thursday and 170 on Wednesday, prompting Nirenberg to say, “We are going to be watching that very closely over the next several days.”

That metric was considerably higher than last week, when Metro Health reported it falling to as low as 134 new cases a day.

The two-week decline in cases, hospital stress and positivity rate, meanwhile, were all listed as “moderate” by Metro Health. Testing capacity and contact tracing was classified as “low” while hospital trends were “steady.”

Things are far better than only a few months ago, when the number of San Antonio-area COVID-19 patients hovered above 1,000, peaking at 1,267 in July, with more than 400 people in the ICU on any given day and as many as 294 on ventilators.

The virus, however, hasn’t gone away, and has shown signs of intensifying in other parts of the state and nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Lone Star State reported 17.6 cases per 100,000. in the past seven days. There were 60 deaths per 100,000 Texans.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said Friday in a Tweet that another 460 medical personnel were deploying to the El Paso region, where more than 700 already have been dispatched. The agency said it had sent 48 patient monitors, 25 medical beds and 30 oxygen concentrators to support local hospitals.

In a troubling trend, the rate of Texans testing positive for coronavirus was just under 9 percent Thursday after dipping to a low of 6.3 percent in September. The average of new daily infections has risen steadily over the past two weeks, and close to 5,000 Texans were in the hospital, a 55 percent increase in only three weeks.

The United States has recorded 8.4 million coronavirus cases, including 428,795 in the past week, and 222,447 deaths since Jan. 21, the CDC said.

New cases were being reported in many states, from Alabama and Arizona to Florida, Colorado and Idaho. Some states saw little change or dropoffs in their cases, including Oregon, North Carolina and South Carolina, among others.

Woo, Metro’s Health’s medical director, said that while local leaders have constantly asked San Antonians to be vigilant, “it is more important now and the flip side is it’s in peoples’ hands. So it’s in your hands whether we have a big and long surge or whether it is a surge at all.”

Nirenberg said it’s important that the city is prepared for a surge.

“Hopefully we can avoid one, hopefully everyone does their part and we can keep this flat and push it out for as long as we can, when there’s therapeutics and a vaccine available and we don’t see that big peak like we did in the summer,” he said.

Sig Christenson covers the military and its impact in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Sig, become a subscriber. sigc@express-news.net | Twitter: @saddamscribe


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