Mayor Ron Nirenberg amended a local emergency order to mandate masks be worn throughout the San Antonio International Airport and aboard aircraft.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg amended a local emergency order to mandate masks be worn throughout the San Antonio International Airport and aboard aircraft. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Friday announced an amendment to his local emergency order. Masks will need to be worn in all areas of the airport, he said. Airline operators whose planes are bound for the San Antonio International Airport must require passengers to wear masks when boarding, during travel, and when disembarking, he said, adding the amendment aligns with recent CDC guidance.

News of the new mandate comes as health care providers are seeing a welcome dip in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The COVID-19 patient count in Bexar County fell below 1,000 on Friday, the first time since Dec. 26, as communities throughout the state and country see decreasing levels of transmission – though officials warn of the potential for another spreader event with the Super Bowl set for Sunday.

Local hospitals are treating 999 COVID-19 patients, and only 85 coronavirus-positive people were admitted to medical facilities in the past 24 hours – about 40 fewer than the number of admissions in recent days.

On Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services revealed its weekly allotments to vaccine providers throughout the state.

Bexar County providers, including the mass vaccination hubs at the Alamodome, Wonderland of the Americas (University Health), and UT Health San Antonio, will receive about 28,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for this coming week.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will receive 10,000 Moderna shots, but the health authority has said that it will be transferring its first-dose allotments to WellMed to focus on administering second doses at the Alamodome in the next two weeks. Second-dose appointments this week were delayed after a clerical mishap by the state.

During a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg addressed concern the delayed vaccine regimen would result in less effective inoculations.

“This is not true,” Nirenberg said. “The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] states that the vaccine can be given up to six weeks after the first dose, and the time frame may lengthen as new data come in. Most vaccines – hepatitis and polio, for example – require more than one dose, and for various reasons, people are often unable to receive a second dose on time. Over decades, scientists have learned that giving a dose too soon can actually weaken the vaccine’s effects, but it’s almost never too late to give a subsequent dose.”

Though health authorities in Texas’ other major cities – Austin, Dallas, and Houston – have opted to create a centralized waitlist for COVID-19 vaccines, Metro Health does not have any plans to adopt a similar registry, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger said. Bridger said the registries do not alleviate the worries of people who sign up.

“Then their anxiety turns to, ‘Well, I’m registered. When am I going to get my shot?’” she said at a Thursday City Council meeting. Here’s more on why Metro Health is not recommending a centralized waitlist for vaccinations.

City Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) told his constituents in a recent newsletter that he is recovering from COVID-19 at home and feeling much better. The councilman had earlier this month become the second elected official in Bexar County to contract the coronavirus after Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) caught it in January and recovered.

Thinking about hosting a Super Bowl party? Experts are strongly advising against gathering indoors with people who don’t live with you. Dr. Anthony Fauci is among them. And Nirenberg earlier this week implored San Antonio residents not to gather. So skip the breaking of bread and scooping of guacamole in the name of football this year if you want to keep the positive momentum going.

Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Friday:

  • 180,386 total cases, 1,724 new cases
  • 2,197 deaths, 11 new deaths
  • 999 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 372 patients in intensive care
  • 217 patients on ventilators, 56% ventilators available
  • 148,753 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.