Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported four new deaths related to COVID-19 Tuesday, raising the local death toll to 52.

Three of those deaths occurred before April 26 but were not reported to officials until late Monday, Nirenberg said. A man in his 60s died, along with two women in their 70s. The fourth death was 66-year-old Clifford Childs, who had been held in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center and died at a hospital Monday evening; he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The county reported 25 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, 23 of which are from the general population and two from the jail, Nirenberg said. There have been 1,677 coronavirus cases reported in Bexar County. Sixty-one people are in the hospital, 35 of whom are in intensive care, including 25 on ventilators.

As the coronavirus outbreak at the jail has increased to 300 cases among inmates, Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters Tuesday during a videoconference with media members that the sheriff’s office has taken all the measures it can take to prevent further spread. Those include decreasing the jail population where possible, providing face masks for deputies and inmates, and sanitizing common areas twice a day.

The sheriff’s office reported Tuesday that six additional inmates and two more detention deputies had tested positive. In all, 60 detention deputies have tested positive for the virus. More than 200 of the inmates who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been asymptomatic, Salazar said. 

“This illness has proven to be a very pervasive illness that I just don’t think there’s a way to fully prevent it, either in our community or within these four walls,” Salazar said. “With that being said, I think that this jail represents a microcosm of the community at large. What we’re seeing out there, we’re also seeing in here.”

Salazar spoke right before Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement Tuesday afternoon that hair and nail salons could reopen to customers on Friday. Bexar County Judge Wolff dismissed the question of whether Abbott’s decision came too soon, “because it’s done.”

“We don’t have any control over it,” Wolff said. “We just got to make sure it works, and we need to check with [those businesses] to make sure that we’re doing the safety precautions. And if they don’t use the masks, I think they’ve got a problem.”

The local stay-at-home orders require people to wear masks in public places where maintaining social distancing is difficult, though Abbott prohibited local entities from enforcing face covering mandates with fines or jail time. 

Like the governor, a local economic transition team recommended in a report presented to the San Antonio City Council and Bexar County commissioners earlier Tuesday that employees of reopened businesses wear masks.

The governor’s decision to reopen barber shops, nail and hair salons, and tanning businesses with limited capacity puts pressure on Bexar County residents to follow best practices as outlined by the economic team in its report, Nirenberg said.

“These are the protocols that should be established because we need to make sure that we’re keeping customers safe, making sure that we’re keeping employees safe, and the general public safe,” he said. “That’s what these guidelines are based on, is how to do that and inspire the confidence to continue to open things up.”

Nirenberg also urged business owners to visit and pledge to have employees wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, check employees’ temperatures, and take other precautions.

“[The economic transition team] established that in order for us to have a strong economy, we need to have healthy people,” he said. “That’s where it all starts. … Make sure the public knows that you’re going to be adhering to these guidelines that are so important for the strong business community that we want to get back to.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.