The number of COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units at area hospitals has dipped below 200 for the first time in months, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Thursday briefing.

Currently 412 people are being treated in area hospitals, with 197 of them in intensive care and 132 on ventilators.

While the hospital system remains under high stress, “it continues to get better,” Nirenberg said, and 61 percent of ventilators remain available as well as 14 percent of staffed hospital beds. 

With 189 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, the total count for Bexar County is 45,811.

Thirteen new deaths were reported, bringing the toll to 767. Seven of the 13 occurred between July 3 and Aug. 23 and were added to the total after a San Antonio Metropolitan Health District investigation of the deaths.

Ages and ethnicities of the deceased

● 7 Hispanic women between ages 50 and 89
● 3 Hispanic men between ages 40 and 89
● 1 Asian woman in her 70s
● 1 white woman in her 60s
● 1 man of unknown ethnicity in his 50s

County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) said people need to remember to not let their guard down, especially with Labor Day weekend coming up just as coronavirus numbers for Bexar County are trending in the right direction.

Bexar County is looking to increase the number of early voting sites for the general election to quell some of the fears of voting in person, Rodriguez said. There needs to be “maximum convenience and accessibility.”

Rodriguez said the AT&T Center has been secured as a “mega voting center” during early voting and the general election.

“That’s a larger venue so that we can maximize distancing in those spaces if there’s long lines,” he said.

In addition to increasing the number of local polling sites ahead of November elections, Rodriguez said Commissioners Court is working to increase the number of voting machines available. There also will be election support staff and election judge job opportunities in the Elections Department, Rodriguez said.

As Bexar County gears up for election season, it is also gearing up for a return to in-person instruction at area schools, and the next two weeks will be the most critical, said Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health medical director.

The COVID-19 positivity rate has declined and “the decline does seem to have slowed a bit, so we just keep on encouraging everybody to be careful,” Woo said. People should continue to follow guidelines from public health professionals, including social distancing and wearing masks.

As schools reopen, it is inevitable that there will be a number of positive cases, Woo said, all of which will be reported to Metro Health and the Department of State Health Services. Woo said she supports campuses reopening as long as they have enough ventilation and personal protective equipment to ensure people are protected.

“If we do it carefully, people can carefully, in small groups, meet in person for learning,” Woo said.

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