The month of June continues to bring a steep rise in the number of confirmed local coronavirus cases. On Sunday night, the City of San Antonio reported 4,393 positive coronavirus cases in Bexar County, an increase of 151 over the previous day’s totals. The death toll stands at 88.

Saturday saw 230 new coronavirus cases, the county’s largest single-day spike since the pandemic began, and a record 148 patients hospitalized. On Sunday, the number hospitalized rose to 176, with 70 patients in ICU and 29 on ventilators.

“We got to make sure that our hospital numbers remain stable. … This is a warning,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Saturday night about the accelerated increase in numbers.

On May 31, the number of positive cases was 2,830. That’s an increase of more than 1,500 cases in the first two weeks of this month in Bexar County.

Nirenberg noted the majority of new cases in Bexar County are from people in their 20s. A city data set shows those in the 20-29 age range account for almost a quarter of all positive coronavirus cases locally, with 998 of the 4,393 cases. Residents in their 20s make up about 15 percent of the county’s population.

Nirenberg suggested the increase among younger San Antonians might have to do with activity at reopened bars and a lack of face masks being worn.

“There is a false sense of security with young people,” Nirenberg said. “Younger people [are] starting to show up in the hospitals. You may end up surviving, but you’re going to end up with a hell of a hospital bill. So wear the mask, stop fooling around.”

Asked if any of the increase could be attributed to the large gatherings of mostly young people at recent protests, Nirenberg said no. He observed most attendees wore masks at the gatherings he attended.

Gov. Greg Abbott permitted bars and similar establishments to reopen for in-person service up to 25 percent capacity on May 22. In early June, Abbott allowed bars to increase their capacity to 50 percent.

Statewide, health officials also have witnessed increases in positive cases and hospitalizations. On June 1, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 64,880 positive coronavirus cases since the State began tracking cases. On Sunday night, two weeks later, DSHS reported 88,523 positive cases. Last week, Texas saw three days of record high numbers of people hospitalized.

On Friday, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott asking for an executive order that would permit local jurisdictions to make face coverings mandatory. Wolff said a successful reopening of the economy depended on mandatory health requirements being in place.

Abbott responded in a television interview that evening by agreeing on the value of wearing a face mask. However, the governor said he had a philosophical difference with Wolff on government mandates and does not believe in ordering every person to wear a mask.

Asked about the increase in positive numbers, Abbott said he was “concerned, but not alarmed,” pointing out that greater testing efforts are driving up the number of positive cases, according to the Texas Tribune.

A tweet from the city noted the percentage of positive tests also has spiked. On June 7, the rate rwas 5.8 percent but on June 13 the rate was between 10 percent and 11 percent.

Nirenberg implored local residents to “pay attention to the real experts,” like Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick. All leaders in the public health industry have been unanimous in telling people to wear a mask, the mayor said.

“This virus is still out there. We are not done with it, it is not done with us, and we need to act accordingly,” Nirenberg said.

Coronavirus tests are available throughout San Antonio and are typically covered by insurance and free for those without insurance at some walk-in testing sites and at the Freeman Coliseum. Details on testing availability can be found here.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.