San Antonio surpasses 150,000 COVID-19 cases as 10 more people die of the virus

Joshua Fechter

San Antonio surpassed 150,000 coronavirus cases Tuesday as the winter surge of COVID-19 kills more residents and threatens to cripple area hospitals.

Officials reported 2,395 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, pushing the total since the pandemic began in March to 152,231.

More than a fifth of those cases — 34,627 — have occurred since the start of the new year. The seven-day rolling average of new cases ticked up Tuesday to 2,041 a day.

“Please continue to protect yourself and your family from this virus,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged residents at the daily city-county coronavirus briefing.

On A guide to getting vaccinated in San Antonio

Ten more people have died of COVID-19, officials reported Tuesday. The youngest was a white man in his 30s. The oldest were two men in their 70s — one was Hispanic, the other white.

The confirmed local death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 1,822.

“Folks, this virus does not discriminate,” Nirenberg said. “By now, we’ve all heard of someone who is of relatively good health and probably young succumbing to COVID-19. So please keep that in mind. We must remain vigilant.”

But the virus’ toll extends beyond those who have died of the virus. A total of nearly 5,600 residents had been hospitalized with COVID-19 through the end of 2020, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, citing a report given to city and county officials Tuesday.

Many will likely suffer health problems long after their bout with the virus, Wolff said.

“That’s a huge number of people that have been really hurt by COVID,” he said.

The number of coronavirus patients in Bexar County hospitals fell slightly from an all-time high of 1,520 on Monday.

Still, Tuesday saw the second-highest number of people sick with the virus in the hospital since the pandemic began — 1,507.

“It’s good to see a little bit of a downtick in the hospital,” Wolff said, “But, don’t expect that to last,” given the rate at which the region is seeing new cases.

Within the past 24 hours, Bexar hospitals have admitted 165 new coronavirus patients.

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For the past two weeks, local hospitals have held an average of 1,400 COVID-19 patients. Coronavirus patients made up 36.8 percent of all patients in the county’s hospitals Tuesday. Of those hospitalized with the virus, 435 patients are in intensive care units. Those on ventilators to help them breathe now number 257.

Vaccine plans

Vaccine appointments at the Alamodome will resume Wednesday after a delayed shipment of thousands of Pfizer doses pushed back appointments that had been scheduled for Monday at the city-owned stadium.

Registration for a new round of appointments Thursday had already filled as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Another round of appointments for Friday will open Wednesday, officials said.

Wolff expressed some optimism that the federal government will put more pressure on vaccine manufacturers to produce more doses once President-elect Joe Biden takes office Wednesday.

But officials cautioned residents not to let down their guard — and to wear masks, keep at least six feet of physical distance and practice good hygiene — just because there’s a vaccine and to act as if the rate of vaccine production won’t improve in the near future. Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health medical director, also noted the more contagious strain of the virus that has been detected in three Texas cities, but not San Antonio.

“We have to be more meticulous now than we’ve been,” Woo said.

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