A 192-person increase Thursday in the number of new positive coronavirus cases in Bexar County has the City’s top health official warning residents: “We are entering a second wave.”

The spike in positive cases is linked to Memorial Day weekend, one of the first opportunities for people to gather and visit friends and family when shutdown restrictions lifted, said Dawn Emerick, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. In the past three days, Bexar County has reported 507 new cases, for a total of 3,849 cases since the pandemic began.

In addition, two more people have died of COVID-19 symptoms: a man in his 80s and a man in his 70s, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during a media briefing Thursday night. 

Of those diagnosed, 122 patients are currently hospitalized – a record since the pandemic began – with 54 being treated in intensive care units, and 25 using ventilators. 

While there was a recent backlog in processing tests, that didn’t contribute to the recent spike in numbers, and neither has the large gathering of people at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Emerick said. 

“Something is happening in our community and in some larger cities in Texas,” she said. “It’s not relevant to protests because of the whole process of exposure and incubation time of the virus.”

Texas reported a record-breaking number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, which comes following Gov. Greg Abbott reopening more businesses and allowing most to operate at 50 percent capacity as of June 3.

Despite the significant uptick in cases, “the capacity [of the hospital system] remains in stable condition,” Nirenberg said. “But the way we are going to get through this is knowing that there is not going to be a vaccine for some time, so using masks and physical distancing is still very important,” and it’s what worked to flatten the curve before. 

However, Abbott’s reopening orders do not require people to wear masks, so local officials cannot order it. While personal protective equipment and physical distancing will continue to be recommended, Emerick said, people need to go one step further and “even if you have no symptoms, consider yourself symptomatic” and go out at a minimum, only when it is necessary. 

“We did a great job flattening the curve, and [a spike in numbers] only means we are letting out guard down, and not adhering to” public health recommendations, she said. “We need to go back to the sense of urgency right now that people had” in the beginning. 

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that the success of using face masks and practicing social distancing can be seen in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, where only 44 inmates currently have tested positive for the virus, which is a “big step forward.”

“We all have to continue to be very careful about what we are doing, particularly in larger settings,” Wolff said. “The jail only has seven people in the infirmary and one in the hospital; we have cleaned up everything down there” by following public health recommendations. 

Nirenberg said that the “good news is that [Bexar County has shown before] that we can contain this disease and limit its spread.” 

“We don’t want to go back on restrictions that would be devastating” to the economy, Nirenberg said. “We need to get everyone back on track with [best practices]. We have to finish the job” 

Roseanna Garza

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