Every Tuesday as Mayor Ron Nirenberg delivers the nightly COVID-19 briefing, he reminds residents that the city’s health authority does not recommend in-person education.
But every week that the local protocols for schools have been in the “red zone” – in which the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District advises against in-person instruction – many of the county’s largest school districts continue to operate at up to 50 percent capacity, with more than just special-needs students or those who lack access to home resources in attendance. With statewide COVID-19 policy superseding that of municipalities, the city has little choice but to watch it happen.
Many of the pandemic indicators and warning signs are at their highest level, according to the city’s own assessment. Teachers and other education professionals are at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus, and many say their campuses are not closely following the requisite COVID-19 guidelines.
In Northside Independent School District, teachers are pondering aloud whether they can close the learning loss gap while risking their lives to the coronavirus.
Although the number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals decreased by seven on Tuesday, the stress on health care facilities has been escalating since a post-Thanksgiving surge, and COVID-19-caused deaths are rising at alarming rates.
On Tuesday, local officials reported 2,303 new coronavirus cases, bringing the seven-day moving average to 1,791, its highest level during the pandemic. And 11 more Bexar County residents have died from the disease, bringing the death toll to 1,660. The deceased include white and Hispanic men and women ranging in age from 60 to 89.
“We are losing far too many of our friends and families to this awful virus in San Antonio,” Nirenberg said. “So please keep them in your prayers tonight and be thankful for those who have healed.”
Will San Antonio’s annual weeks-long party return in 2021? The Fiesta Commission has hired a prominent doctor and public health expert to help implement COVID-19 protocols that might make in-person Fiesta events possible this year. Nirenberg said on Tuesday it’s still too premature to say whether and in what capacity the festival will happen in 2021, but commission leaders are voicing optimism ahead of the planned April 15-25 dates.
Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Tuesday:
- 137,407 total cases, 2,303 new cases
- 1,660 deaths, 11 new deaths
- 1,426 in hospital, 12% beds available
- 403 patients in intensive care
- 228 patients on ventilators, 46% ventilators available