Bexar County is a quarter of the way through fully vaccinating its residents.
Bexar County is a quarter of the way through fully vaccinating its residents. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Nearly a quarter of Bexar County residents old enough to get the shot have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

It’s a remarkable statistic and one that is reason for optimism. But it is nowhere close to herd immunity even though Gov. Greg Abbott recently claimed the state is nearing the elusive threshold. It is truly elusive because scientists still don’t know whether the vaccination rate needs to reach 70% or 85% to achieve herd immunity, and we also do not have a firm grasp on how long immunity lasts.

And how meaningful is achieving herd immunity as a state anyway when Texas is such a magnet for out-of-state newcomers and will likely see rocketing tourism in the summer?

“It’s not like we have impermeable membranes that separate Bexar County from the rest of the world,” said Colleen Bridger, San Antonio’s assistant city manager.

Nor does it have a “big, beautiful wall,” a moat, or alligator-infested waters. Sidebar: Doesn’t it feel like ages ago San Antonio collectively guffawed at the confusion over a presidential trip to Alamo, Texas? It was in January.

Local officials are hopeful the country will achieve President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating every adult who wants a shot by July. Even then, we’d still have to get a vaccine approved for inoculating children to have a clearer shot at herd immunity, you would think.

If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, please read my colleague Shari Biediger’s Sunday story. In it, Shari tells the harrowing story of how Cathi Aguilera gave birth and narrowly escaped death after a months-long hospital stay for COVID-19. Doctors say it was “nothing short of a miracle” that Aguilera and her baby survived the ordeal.

The coronavirus positive test rate in Bexar County made the slightest of jumps on Monday, from 2.1% to 2.4%. And while it’s good news the positivity rate remains below the 5% threshold for the fourth consecutive week, there are signs of an uptick.

The county’s seven-day average has climbed by more than 60 since last Monday, and its COVID-19 patient count has risen by more than 40 in the past nine days. For public health officials, the data is not yet enough to constitute a trend, but it is something they’re keeping an eye on.

“We don’t know if it’s the start of even more of an increase or if this is what we’ve been expecting to see with the combination of spring break and the lifting of the mask order,” Bridger said. She added that she hopes the community will be able to fend off a surge in cases through its vaccinations, but another week’s worth of data will tell a fuller story of what the latest numbers mean.

The county’s waitlist for residents age 65 or older still seeking their COVID-19 vaccine goes live on Wednesday, Bridger said. The City has been trialing the registry through 311 and has already signed some residents up. We’ll follow up with more information on that in Thursday’s edition of The Curve.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.