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Bexar County schools are likely to soon see more students on their campuses as local health officials on Tuesday downgraded the risk level of coronavirus spread.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District announced that as the county has seen reduced levels of infection in recent weeks, it has revised its risk level for in-person instruction to low and its safety protocols have gone from a so-called yellow-zone phase to the green zone.
In anticipation of the 2020-21 school year, Metro Health devised a phased-in approach to reopening schools beginning in the high-risk red zone, in which in-person instruction was not recommended. As the infection rate slowly declined and hospital stress levels improved, the risk level was downgraded to moderate. In the yellow zone, protocols included limiting students to cohorts of six or fewer per classroom and capping building occupancy at 25 percent.
Now in the green zone, schools should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to minimize transmission, but the recommendations do not restrict building or room occupancy, nor do they limit how many students can learn together at one time. Initially brought forward as a public health order, the protocols were not mandatory, as a series of State of Texas actions rendered them toothless from an enforcement standpoint.
To date, there have been 5,725 cases of coronavirus among Texas public school students, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. An estimated 1 million students attended school in person during the first week of school. Of the estimated 800,000 staff members on public school campuses that week, more than 4,000 of them have contracted the virus, according to DSHS.
Schools will still be expected to follow physical distancing guidelines as well as face-covering requirements and sanitation protocols.
“One of the key points is that each school will have to look at their occupancy based on the ability to maintain the social distancing requirements in classrooms and in the common areas,” said Mario Martinez, assistant director at Metro Health.
On Tuesday, an additional 193 coronavirus cases were reported in Bexar County, bringing the overall caseload to 58,939 and the seven-day moving average to 126.
One new death, that of a woman in her 40s with underlying health conditions, was reported on Tuesday, as the death toll stands at 1,168.
Thirteen fewer patients were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday. Of the 206 patients, 82 were in intensive care and 41 were on ventilators.