A countywide health directive is expected to clear the way for a gradual return to in-person schooling beginning after Labor Day weekend.
A countywide health directive is expected to clear the way for a gradual return to in-person schooling beginning after Labor Day weekend. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With schools set to gradually reintroduce in-person instruction as early as next week, the county appears to be on pace to hit an important target as the local coronavirus outbreak continues to improve.

On Monday, the rate of positives among Bexar County residents testing for the coronavirus fell to 7.8 percent, inching closer to the 5 percent target public health officials underlined as key to a safe return to school. However, until that threshold is reached, schools will remain in the so-called moderate coronavirus risk level, meaning at-risk populations such as special needs students can receive instruction on campus, but the remainder must continue remote learning.

“Just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Anita Kurian, Metro Health’s assistant director, when asked Monday what can be done to keep the virus at bay ahead of schools reopening. “Practice those everyday preventive measures that we’ve been recommending. We know it works, so you need to stay the course.”

Kurian said Metro Health has been working with area schools to ensure they are prepared for as many scenarios as the coronavirus may present.

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Monday saw the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since June 8, with an increase of 40 cases reported. That brought the seven-day rolling average in new cases down from 164 to 154.

The low case increase coincided with no recent COVID-19-caused deaths in Bexar County. The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Monday reported seven deaths that occurred between July 2 and 29, as the department continues to verify death certificates reported to the State. That brought the local death toll to 809.

Though most indicators Monday were trending in a positive direction, the number of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals increased by 20 from 366 to 386.

Ages and ethnicities of the deceased

• 3 men of unknown ethnicity between ages 50 and 79

• 2 women of unknown ethnicity between ages 60 and 79

• 2 white men, one in his 50s*

*Age not provided for one of the deceased

“We don’t want to see that [become] a trend, so we’re going to be watching that very closely this week,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Monday briefing, adding there were 47 new hospital admissions overnight.

The critical hospital cases, however, continued to decline with 155 in intensive care and 95 on ventilators, down seven and eight, respectively, from Sunday. Capacity for staffed area hospital beds stands at 17 percent while 66 percent of ventilators are available.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.