Three more people died in Bexar County from the new coronavirus, bringing the total death count to 33, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Monday.

One of those deaths was a Caucasian woman in her 60s who had been a resident at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, San Antonio Metropolitan Health Director Dawn Emerick said. She was unsure if the woman had any underlying health conditions. The nursing home’s outbreak accounts for nearly half of the deaths in Bexar County; 16 of its residents have died.

“It is interesting to note that while 33 of the deaths in our community are among those 40 years and older, almost 40 percent of the positive infections in San Antonio are of those who are younger than 40 years old,” Nirenberg said. “So this proves, once again, that this infection is attacking people who are of all ages and we need to take our precautions.”

There are now 794 cases of coronavirus in the county. Of those, 88 people are in hospitals, 52 are in intensive care, and 37 are on ventilators. More than 130 people have recovered from the virus.

The drive-thru testing site at the Freeman Coliseum has tested around 5,000 people so far, while private labs bring the total Bexar County test count to approximately 8,000, Nirenberg said. Federal support for the Freeman testing site ended on Sunday, Emerick said, and the San Antonio area is continuing its operations there with another partner. 

Emerick, who joined Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff Monday for their daily news conference, highlighted a new Metro Health initiative to reach out to vulnerable communities who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, you’ve seen that in our nursing home situation,” Emerick said. “So, we also know that there are people at risk, who live all over the community, so we’re looking at those who are over 65 years of age. We also know folks who have underlying chronic conditions [are more at risk]. We’re also seeing health disparities in people of color and communities of color. So when we’re looking at all of those. We have that data now.”

The racial and ethnic breakdown of cases does not match the population of San Antonio. Of the cases, 3.7 percent are in the county’s Asian population, 12.8 percent from the African American population, 31 from the white population, and 52 from the Hispanic population, Emerick said. 

The death rates have even more diversions from Bexar County’s racial proportions – 37 percent of deaths have occurred in the Hispanic population, 31.3 percent among African Americans, 28 percent in the white population, Emerick said.

“We’re all telling you to continue to work hard to flatten the curve,” she said. “But we also know that this disease is certainly hurting some of our communities of color in disproportionate ways.”

To help combat that inequity, the City of San Antonio’s Community Health and Prevention teams have been delivering door hangers with COVID-19 information in certain communities. This week, the teams will share coronavirus testing and prevention information in neighborhoods in West, South, and Southeast San Antonio. 

“We were out in the East Side last week,” she said. “We were canvassing, we were visiting restaurants and making sure that restaurants were following the protocols for social distancing, making sure that they were following all of the restaurant inspections to keep everyone safe.”

Nirenberg also said that he was informed Monday of two people being moved to the River City Care Center, one of two nursing homes that have been prepared to receive COVID-19 positive patients from area nursing homes. Nirenberg said he was trying to verify that information, but he was told those two people were in home health care programs and not yet at nursing homes.

“Again, the judge and I have made it very clear, we think nursing home residents, if there are any additional positives and they need to be isolated, [should] go to the Westover facility first” because it is the newer of the two, Nirenberg said.

River City Care Center and Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare were chosen by the nursing home management companies as the best facilities to isolate COVID-19 patients, Nirenberg said. He added that the citations that River City had previously incurred happened under their former owners.

Models of the San Antonio region’s coronavirus curve — when it will peak and when it will flatten — should be available Tuesday, Nirenberg said. Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio are using local data to predict future cases, which will be presented against models using global data and statewide data.

“What we hope to provide is a sense of variability between the different models that are being run, to give us a sense of where we think that apex is going to be in terms of our infection rate,” he said. “That apex is important because it tells us the timing of … when are we going to see the peak load of cases and how that’s going to impact our medical system capacity.”

He said he remains confident in local hospitals’ ability to treat current and future COVID-19 patients. The City is still waiting on an order of 2,100 ventilators from the state, and just received 14 pallets of personal protective equipment.

“We were told by [the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council] that the pipeline has been open sufficiently now, so we have a good supply of protective equipment coming in,” he said.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.