Bexar County experienced a slight jump in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday, though local officials reported no additional deaths.

In the first of what are scheduled to be daily televised updates on how the global pandemic is affecting San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that 120 people have tested positive for the virus since March 13, when health officials confirmed the first cases among Bexar County residents. Bexar County’s death toll from the virus remains unchanged from the five deaths reported the day before, Nirenberg said.

For the first time, local officials on Friday released numbers on coronavirus patients being treated in hospitals: 33. The rest are recovering at home. The majority of people who contract the virus are expected to survive and recover, however health data show that even younger, seemingly healthy people can die from it.

“The virus is easily transmitted,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “We’ve seen perfectly healthy people become very ill and, in some cases, die. With the weekend upon us, don’t let your guard down. Take the warning seriously.”

The rise of only seven confirmed cases from Thursday to Friday is the smallest rise this week in the number of infected from one day to the next. However, with data still lacking on how many people have been tested for coronavirus in Bexar County, there’s little meaning behind the numbers.

Of the 120 people who have tested positive, 66 were related to travel outside Bexar County or close contact with someone who traveled. Another 42 were tied to person-to-person spread within Bexar County. Twelve cases remain under investigation.

During the address, Nirenberg and Wolff both warned that the number of people testing positive for the virus will continue to rise as more people are tested.

“We’ve done a lot of testing this week,” Wolff said. “That means in the next few days, we are likely to get more results back, and we’re likely to have many more cases within the community.”

Statewide, 1,731 people had tested positive for coronavirus, with 23 deaths as of 8 p.m. Thursday, the latest numbers available, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

With more than 101,000 coronavirus cases, the U.S. on Thursday became the epicenter of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 1,500 people have died, with nearly 870 recovered.

Wolff and Nirenberg urged viewers to continue abiding by the stay-at-home orders issued this week that restrict residents from leaving home other than to seek medical care, get supplies, or exercise outdoors, among a handful of other exempted activities. Without widespread testing, health experts say slowing the spread of coronavirus is the only way to ensure that a flood of sick people doesn’t overwhelm the health care system and lead to a shortage of beds and ventilator machines.

On Thursday, Comal County experienced its first death tied to coronavirus. Adolph “T.J.” Mendez, died of the virus Thursday. Mendez, who was born in San Antonio was 44 years old, married, and a father of three boys and three girls, according to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

“He was a fine Christian man who was faithful to serve his God and he had a wonderful and supportive family,” wrote the Rev. Ray Still, pastor of Oakwood Church in New Braunfels, where Mendez taught kindergarten, in a post on the church’s social media page.

Still went on to say that Mendez’s death “should be sobering to all” and a reminder “that this pandemic must be taken seriously.”

On Friday, Comal County officials also confirmed the virus is spreading from person to person within the county, with nine residents testing positive since the outbreak began.

Medina County officials also confirmed two cases additional cases, bringing the total number in that county to three. The two cases confirmed Friday were linked to community spread.

During the address Friday, Nirenberg said playground equipment and ball courts at San Antonio parks will be closed starting Friday night to ensure that people are staying at least 6 feet away from each other.

Wolff said Bexar County parks will follow the same policy. Local officials are considering whether to close parks on Easter weekend, typically a time of crowded gatherings and family celebrations in local parks.

“That’s generally when a lot of people come out early and crowds cluster,” Wolff said. “And so it may be possible that we will either close on Easter or really police it so we don’t have people coming together in close proximity.”

Avatar photo

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.