Eloise Japhet Elementary School's cafeteria restricts seating in certain areas to maintain physical distancing.
Eloise Japhet Elementary School's cafeteria restricts seating in certain areas to maintain physical distancing. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With a 14-day decline in new coronavirus cases, Bexar County has entered the safe risk level for COVID-19, the lowest of five ratings in a Metro Health-devised system that takes into account seven health indicators, including the positivity rate and hospital data.

However, the county continues to chase the elusive 5 percent figure for positive coronavirus tests.

The positivity rate among coronavirus testing subjects in the county declined to 6.7 percent, down from 7.8 percent last week. But the local health authority had targeted a 5 percent positivity rate and was hoping to achieve that figure by Tuesday, when the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District recommended a return to in-person schooling.

Because the positivity rate remains above the 5 percent threshold, school districts are recommended to conduct in-person schooling according to Metro Health’s yellow-zone protocols, meaning special-needs students and those without home internet connections can attend in person and classrooms should be limited to 25 percent capacity.

“Today many kids returned to school for the first time since March,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a televised briefing on Tuesday. “These children and our teachers are counting on you to keep them safe.”

Despite reports San Antonio residents observed Labor Day weekend by attending dance parties, spectating at football games, and patronizing bars, local officials said they remain hopeful those were just outliers. If a majority of people stayed home during the holiday weekend, the area will see further decline in the positivity rate.

“I got anecdotal reports that a lot of activity was taking place with masking and with physical distancing,” Nirenberg said of the Labor Day weekend happenings. “We did, of course, have some violations that were called in and we had active enforcement going on. It’s like everything else – we’re not going to be 100 percent, but we’re counting on people to do their part to get as close to it as we can.”

On Tuesday, local health officials reported 193 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the overall caseload to 47,736. The county’s seven-day average of new cases now stands at 185, and the area has seen 14 consecutive days of decline.

One more Bexar County resident has died from COVID-19, bringing the local death toll to 979. Metro Health is investigating more than 100 deaths reported to the State to verify a positive coronavirus diagnosis and Bexar County residency.

Area hospitals are treating 304 COVID-19 patients, with 134 patients in intensive care and 81 on ventilators. The hospital bed capacity in the county stands at 18 percent while 68 percent of ventilators are available.

Officials warned residents against being lulled into a false sense of security, as the virus remains present in the community.

“We’re doing right, but let’s not let our guard down,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “We still have a few challenges ahead of us.”

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