As the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 patients in Bexar County continues to increase gradually in Bexar County, the disease claimed the life of another resident, a man in his 60s who died at Methodist Hospital, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at Thursday’s daily briefing. 

The number of people in Bexar County who have died since the crisis began is now 71, Nirenberg said, and the City is keeping a close eye on hospitalizations as it works toward containing the pandemic. Ninety-five COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment at area hospitals and are considered “moderately ill,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said – three more patients than were reported hospitalized Wednesday.

Wolff said residents need to make sure they aren’t “taking chances we shouldn’t be taking” as the economy continues its recovery.

“People are getting back out there to eat, and as long as they are using the face masks and staying 6 feet apart, there should be no problem,” said Wolff, who dined at downtown restaurant Mi Tierra for lunch after a 20-minute wait for a table. “We have been distributing [personal protective equipment] throughout the 26 [suburban] cities” in the county to continue the effort to mitigate the spread, he said. 

Walk-up testing sites that opened Thursday tested 277 people – 146 at San Antonio College at 1819 N. Main Ave. and 131 at Highlands High School at 3118 Elgin Ave., San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Dawn Emerick said.

The sites will remain open through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are expected to continue testing hundreds of Bexar County residents free of charge, Emerick said, noting the area will continue to see an increase in the number of confirmed positives because of increased testing, including congregate settings such as nursing homes. 

With only two inmates in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center’s infirmary due to symptoms of COVID-19, “the jail situation is looking much better” following an outbreak that infected just under 300 inmates and dozens of deputies, Wolff said. 

While Metro Health “doesn’t have a crystal ball” to determine when the region might see a second peak of coronavirus cases as businesses begin to reopen or expand, there will be an increase in the cases of community transmission, Emerick said. “In infectious diseases it’s typical for you to see a second wave, but there is no indication that it’s around the corner.”

Of the 58 people reported as testing positive Thursday, at least 17 cases were from the community. The total number of positive cases in the county is now 2,583.

Thirty-one percent of hospital beds are still available to treat COVID-19 patients, and 79 percent of the county’s ventilator inventory is still available.  

Nirenberg said City Council is discussing how to use federal CARES Act funding to ensure that area hospitals are outfitted with what is needed to treat COVID-19 patients should there be a dramatic increase in numbers. 

“A big portion of the CARES Act funding is to make sure we have the resources available” to diagnose and treat patients, Nirenberg said. “The hospital system itself continues to be in stable condition” to treat patients today. 

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.