San Antonio is rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine registry to the public on Wednesday, after months of some officials resisting an idea that many other cities and states have adopted.
Colleen Bridger, the city’s coronavirus czar, said at the city-county pandemic briefing Monday that the registry, also referred to as a waiting list, initially will be open to people 65 and older. It is a tool for residents to sign up and be notified when a vaccination appointment becomes available.
Residents can register themselves or do so on behalf of a family member. A small number of people have already been registered as part of a trial run through 311, Bridger added.
Some San Antonio leaders have vacillated on the idea of a registry, previously arguing that it would be too difficult and of little use in the face of limited vaccine supplies. But the availability of doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots have increased substantially over the past month, and all adult Texans are now eligible to seek vaccine appointments.
Local officials are also keeping a close eye on average new coronavirus cases and COVID hospitalizations, which have gradually ticked up over the past week.
The seven-day average for new cases stands at 232, compared with 167 a week ago.
There were 217 patients hospitalized Monday, up from 176 on April 3, when the patient load dipped to its lowest level since the virus first began spreading in spring 2020. Of those being treated, 79 were critically ill, 38 were breathing with the support of a ventilator and 33 had been admitted in the past day.
“We have seen a little bit of a bump in the hospital numbers,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg at the briefing. “We are watching that very closely.”
However, overall transmission remains low. And other measures of the virus’ impact on the community have remained stable for the past month, as the winter surge has receded and vaccinations have climbed to about 1 in 4 residents.
Last week, the positivity rate was 2.4 percent, an increase of 0.3 percent over the previous week, while the case rate stood at 11.3 infections per 100,000 people. Both numbers are low — over the winter, the portion of tests that are positive for the virus peaked at 23.2 percent, and the infection rate exceeded 100.
Bridger said the data will need to be monitored for at least another week to discern whether the bump in cases and hospitalizations is part of a larger trend.
“We don’t know if it’s a start of even more of an increase or if this is what we’ve been expecting to see with the combination of spring break and the lifting of the mask order,” she said.
Bexar County recorded 1,223 cases from more than two weeks ago, pushing the number of infected residents to 210,796. The total includes 317 new cases reported Monday, as well as 151 from Saturday and 253 from Sunday.
No new deaths were reported Monday. Fifty-eight backlogged deaths ranging from Dec. 28 to March 23 pushed San Antonio’s death toll from the pandemic to 3,280.
As of Sunday, Nirenberg said that 601,272 residents of Bexar County had received their first vaccine dose, while 376,814 had been fully vaccinated. He added that additional data from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, forthcoming Thursday, will provide a fuller picture of the area’s inoculation rate.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that University Health vaccinated a record 35,899 people last week at the Wonderland of the Americas mall and two smaller sites.
As coronavirus variants continue to spread across the country, Wolff and Bridger said the goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible. Parts of the Midwest, including Michigan, are contending with a new wave of variant-driven infections.
“The entire U.S. is watching what’s happening in the Midwest,” Bridger said. “It’s not like we have impermeable membranes that separate Bexar County from the rest of the world.”