As the total number of coronavirus cases in Bexar County climbs closer to 1,000, one more individual has died from the virus, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Saturday. 

The death of a 50-year-old Hispanic male with underlying medical conditions has brought the total number of deaths in the county as a result of COVID-19 to 38.

There are now 992 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and, of those, 256 people have recovered, which is more than a quarter of total cases the county has seen, Nirenberg said. 

Seventy-eight individuals remain hospitalized, with 44 in intensive care, and 24 on ventilators. There are 63 more people in the hospital awaiting official test results.

No new cases are inmates at the Bexar County Jail, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

“Along with everyone else, we’re anxious to get back to work, anxious to get to the activities we’ve enjoyed, anxious to strengthen our economy again, but remember – a healthy economy starts with healthy people,” Nirenberg said during his nightly live update with Wolff. “That’s what this entire effort is all about, so stay the course, stay home, save lives. We are still in the middle of the fight against this pandemic and your work is paying off.”

The City’s new COVID-19 Health Transition Team met for the first time Saturday, Nirenberg said. The nine-person task force has been charged with developing strategies for slowly reopening the local economy while continuing to combat the spread of coronavirus. It is composed of medical and public health experts from around the city. 

While this team will begin the conversation of returning to some activities and businesses, they will guide City and County officials on how to do so in a thoughtful way to prevent a second wave of the virus, Nirenberg said. 

The team is taking into consideration everything declared by Gov. Greg Abbott, Wolff said. Abbott announced initial steps to begin the process of reopening the Texas economy on Friday and is expected to open more businesses on March 27, Wolff said.

“The bottom line is whatever [Abbott] says, we’ll be responsible for implementing that, and the health standards that we want to set are going to be very important to that piece,” Wolff said.

This week, City Council will also be reviewing and voting on its COVID-19 emergency housing assistance program, which will provide up to $16 million of relief for persons needing assistance with mortgage, rent, and utility payments, he said.

Individuals can donate to this fund by texting “HOUSINGHELPSA” to 41444 or emailing COVID19@saafdn.org.

Wolff reminded local residents that everyone over the age of 10 will be required to wear a face mask within the county and city starting Monday, according to a new mandate issued Thursday. 

He thanked San Antonians for respecting the stay-at-home orders issued on March 23, and urged people to continue with these efforts. 

“Had y’all not responded, had we not been doing what we’re doing, [studies show] we’d have lost 1,200 people,” Wolff said. 

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In response to protesters at the Texas state Capitol Saturday demanding cities end their stay-at-home orders, Nirenberg discouraged San Antonians from following suit. 

“It’s extremely dangerous, it’s careless, it’s reckless to others,” Nirenberg said. “Folks who congregate may in fact be carrying the virus and not even know it, but end up infecting someone they love who will die from it.”

These protests are sending a terrible message, Wolff said, stating this pandemic is unlike anything the country has ever faced. He reiterated the City and County orders are meant to prevent loss of life in the community.

If the mayor’s declarations and orders were not in place, there would have been a steep incline in the number of cases that would have resulted in overwhelming the city’s health infrastructure, said Anita Kurian, assistant director of the Metropolitan Health District’s communicable disease division. 

“These orders enabled the slowing of the rapid incline of cases of infections, thereby enabling us to respond in a timely manner to these infections,” Kurian said.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.