This story has been updated.

Bexar County reported 538 new cases of new coronavirus cases Sunday, the largest reported in a single day so far, bringing the total number of residents who have tested positive is 6,882.

A man in his 50s with no known underlying medical conditions has died from the disease, a City of San Antonio spokeswoman said, bringing the local death count to 97. Nearly 120,000 people have died across the U.S.

Bexar County had fewer than 15 positive cases when the first emergency orders started closing businesses on March 18.

On June 1, the City reported a total of 2,839 cases in Bexar County.

Local health systems reported 406 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Sunday, with 133 in intensive care (there were 111 on Saturday) and 64 requiring ventilators (there were 49 on Saturday).

“Over the next three weeks, we’re likely to see a significant rise in cases,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Rivard Report Sunday. “Our focus has to be ensuring that we’re identifying [and tracing those cases] as quickly as possible and that we are bolstering capacity to treat patients.”

That means the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will be working with each hospital to maximize capacity and, if necessary, engage the emergency alternate care facility established at Freeman Coliseum.

One warning indicator was triggered Sunday as the time it takes for cases to double dropped from 20 days to 13 days. A warning is triggered when the doubling time drops to 18 days or lower.

That is particularly concerning, Nirenberg said. “It says we need to slow down and we need to potentially retrench. … The challenge is, of course, the State has taken away our abilities to do that.”

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to reopen Texas leaves municipalities little leeway, meaning “we have to get extremely aggressive with the guidance and warnings that we put out to the public,” he said. 

Nirenberg has said for weeks that he will refuse to stand by and risk the lives of San Antonians. 

“We’re going to watch our data, and in the event it goes in the wrong direction, we’re going to have a very candid conversation with the governor,” he said in May. “We hope to remain in alignment [with the State], but our job is to make sure we protect our residents here at home.”

Metro Health officials are still investigating the new cases, the City spokeswoman said Sunday, but it’s likely the spike in cases that started earlier this month is due to businesses reopening and social gatherings increasing in size and frequency – such as Memorial Day celebrations. More than 35 percent of the positive cases since March 18 (when the City started tracking cases) were people 29 years old or younger.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s executive order requiring employees and customers at businesses to wear face coverings goes into effect on Monday. Businesses that do not require masks violate the order and face a $1,000 fine.

“The numbers are getting awfully high and it is putting stress on our hospital system,” Wolff said last week. “All indicators are going in the wrong direction, but particularly alarming is the number of people in the hospital.”

Testing also has become more available and in demand; free testing at Freeman Coliseum has reached capacity through June 23. The registration system has been shut down for the weekend, but anyone interested in being tested for coronavirus may register beginning Monday for an appointment later in the week.

“We can do this. We can open the economy and open businesses and go back to life as it was if people just do the simple things,” Nirenberg said Friday. “If we don’t take these measures seriously, it’s going to get worse.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org