Some San Antonio area bars could close again as coronavirus case count continues to grow

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Just a few weeks after bars that don’t serve food were allowed to reopen, officials are considering closing them again as coronavirus cases continue to escalate in the San Antonio area.

The Community Response Coalition, which guides the city and county on how to combat the pandemic, has recommended that the county shut down those bars again when the community’s positivity rate is at 10 percent or more for two consecutive weeks.

Monday, the positivity rate reached 9.4 percent — almost double what it was at the beginning of October.

“We may not be getting a spike, but we are constantly going up and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping it right now,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said at the daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, conducted via remote because both Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg are in quarantine.

Both leaders came in contact separately with someone who contracted COVID-19, but both have tested negative for the virus. They are in quarantine in an abundance of caution, they have said.

Another 292 new novel coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday — 98 more than the previous day — increasing the total count for Bexar County to 70,528. And three more people with COVID-19 have died, pushing the county’s death toll from the virus to 1,304.

Following guidelines set under Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest emergency orders, Wolff allowed bars that don’t serve food to reopen Oct. 21 so long as less than 15 percent of the county’s hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and the bars close at 11 p.m.

On that day, there were 200 patients with coronavirus in hospitals and the positivity rate was 5.8 percent.

There were about 425 bars that didn’t serve food that could have opened their doors then; it was unclear Tuesday how many of them were actually in operation.

Now those that did reopen are having to face closing again. While the hospitalization of COVID-19 patients is only at 10.8 percent, the positivity threshold is likely to be crossed much sooner.

“In our opinion, waiting for the 15 percent hospitalization threshold to force the shutdown as identified in the Governor’s policy would be too late,” Kathy Shields, a public health administrator with Metro Health and a member of the coalition, wrote to Colleen Bridger, the interim health director, Monday.

Wolff, who had asked Bridger for the coalition’s recommendations, said he would follow their guidance.

The three deaths reported by San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Tuesday occurred within the past two weeks. These include two residents of the Northeast Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center — a Hispanic man in his 60s and a Hispanic woman in her 70s — as well as a Hispanic man in his 60s. Each had underlying health conditions.

On Tuesday, almost 11 percent of patients in San Antonio hospitals were being treated for coronavirus, accounting for 422 patients — 15 more than the previous day’s 407. Sixty-two of those were new admissions, while 149 were in intensive care and 65 needed ventilators to breathe.

Sixty-seven of the coronavirus patients Tuesday were transferred from El Paso, where its hospitals are under extreme strain due to the rapidly rising number of cases in the area.

In that border city of about 950,000 people, officials reported that 1,120 of patients in its hospitals — 52 percent — had COVID-19 on Monday. And there were 994 new cases of the disease the same day. In all, more than 76,000 residents have tested positive for the virus in El Paso.


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