On the day before the Fourth of July, Bexar County recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases, adding 1,334 new positives and bringing the overall total to 14,212. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported two additional deaths, a man in his 50s and a man in his 70s.

Nirenberg on Friday warned about the coronavirus outbreak potential should people congregate in group settings over the holiday weekend. He advised area residents to spend time only with members of their household, stay home and wear a mask if that isn’t possible, celebrate outdoors, and not share food, drinks, or utensils.

“All we have to do is block this virus from being transmitted from myself to somebody else or from you to somebody else, and you do that by putting on a mask,” Nirenberg said. “Do that for a couple weeks and we’ll see our numbers drop.”

Both SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas have planned Fourth of July celebrations. Nirenberg said both businesses plan to hold patrons to high public health standards, doing temperature checks at the door and enforcing mask usage.

The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized continued to increase, with 1,089 in hospitals and 14 percent of staffed beds available, Nirenberg said Friday night. This percentage can fluctuate depending on the number of beds and staff available at each of the hospitals.

The State deployed 177 nurses to San Antonio to help increase this capacity, and 73 more nurses are expected on Monday, said Eric Epley, the executive director of the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council. A number of factors could change the hospital capacity figures, he noted, and “that number is going to change every day as we create more [beds] and then, of course, put patients in those beds.”

Epley said the process of activating a pop-up hospital at Freeman Coliseum began Thursday, even though San Antonio “is not anywhere near needing to use the Freeman yet.” It’s expected to take five to seven days to get the site operational, Epley said.

He noted that Brooke Army Medical Center does not take civilian medical patients because of rules set by the federal government, and he said the simplest and most effective way the federal government could help San Antonio would be to relax those rules.

Nirenberg also advised San Antonians to skip shooting off fireworks this year, citing the growing number of COVID-19 patients. He said last week saw a record number of calls for emergency medical transport of COVID-19 patients.

“Yesterday, in fact, we had 97 calls and 64 transports for COVID-19,” Nirenberg said. “If [fire stations] are having to make runs tomorrow night because they are trying to put out fires caused by fireworks, that is less opportunity for our important resources, our EMS techs, to be out there working this pandemic.

“Wear a mask, also don’t shoot fireworks. That’s one way everyone can help our fire department handle this pandemic.”

City and County parks are closed for the holiday weekend and will reopen Monday morning. The City parks director said temporarily closing parks would help emphasize the importance of staying home and avoiding public gatherings.

Earlier Friday, the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management used a wireless alert system to send an emergency notice to residents’ phones.

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The message alerted residents of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that took effect at noon, mandating the use of face coverings in public places. The order applies to counties with 20 or more confirmed coronavirus cases, and defying it is punishable by a fine of $250. The order, however, exempts churches and polling places, the Texas Tribune reported Friday.

Throughout Friday, Abbott warned of the perils of socializing with too many people over the holiday weekend, as had happened over Memorial Day weekend.

“If people gather on Fourth of July the same way they did on Memorial Day, it is going to lead to a massive increase in the number of people testing positive,” Abbott said in an interview on KSAT-TV.

On Memorial Day, Bexar County tallied 2,830 positive coronavirus cases. Since then, the number of positive cases has spiked and Texas reversed course on some of its reopening procedures. The number of patients hospitalized locally also has climbed rapidly since Memorial Day weekend.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.