Healthcare workers at University Hospital apply PPE (personal protective equipment) before entering rooms of COVID-19 diagnosed patients.
January has become the deadliest month of the pandemic in Bexar County. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

If you were duped into believing the pandemic would miraculously vanish in 2021, like a long and vivid night terror you’d sweat out with the turn of the New Year, well, I’d hate to break it to you, but it’s still here. And it’ll be months before most of us will be able to get the vaccine, said members of the White House’s COVID-19 task force in its first public briefing of the new administration.

For longer than a week, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District had reported double-digit fatalities each day. On Wednesday, nine more deaths were reported, bringing the local death toll to 2,007.

In under four weeks the toll has increased by nearly 500, as January has proven to be the deadliest month of the pandemic in Bexar County, surpassing August’s toll of 457. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produces its annual mortality reports for U.S. counties, COVID-19 is likely to be among the top three causes of death in Bexar County along with heart disease and cancer.

There’s evidence the post-holiday surge is easing up nationwide, but Bexar County is still averaging more than 1,500 cases of the coronavirus every day, with 1,341 reported on Wednesday. The county is at extremely high risk for COVID-19, according to a New York Times interactive tool, as are the majority of U.S. counties.

A positive sign in the pandemic response locally is that the COVID-19 patient count in local hospitals has fallen pretty sharply in recent days, by nearly 200 since Jan. 18. That’s due in large part to more effective interventions, such as monoclonal antibodies, as well as earlier detection and treatment of COVID-19.

“The patient stays at the hospitals are significantly shorter than they were in the summer,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Wednesday briefing. “And that’s a good thing.”

Still, the only way the virus will ease up – given that state leaders are averse to more lockdowns – is if a large majority of the population is vaccinated. Fortunately for the region, it certainly does not seem to be suffering from an unwillingness to get vaccinated. We may very well see local polling data from our partners at Bexar Facts in the future, and I imagine many respondents will answer the same way more than half of the adults who responded to a U.S. Census Bureau survey did: that they would definitely get the vaccine.

Registration for Wednesday’s slate of appointments to get vaccinated at the Alamodome was full at 7 p.m. Wednesday, but officials said that registration would open again on Thursday. Although the City does not open appointment slots at a set time, the afternoon is the best time to visit the City’s website to try and register, a Metro Health spokeswoman said. Slots tend to be added around 2 and 4 p.m.

“As we have them available we add them to the registration website,” she said.

As the pandemic persists so do the cancellations and postponements of events whose organizers had hoped the situation would start to turn for the better by now. Last week, it was announced that the annual Fiesta Oyster Bake would be canceled this year. Organizers of the state’s Special Olympics 2021 games postponed that event that was to be held at Morgan’s Wonderland, and the annual Barbacoa & Big Red Festival was canceled for the second year running.

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

  • 164,270 total cases, 1,341 new cases
  • 2,007 deaths, nine new deaths
  • 1,341 in hospital, 11% beds available
  • 394 patients in intensive care
  • 255 patients on ventilators, 49% ventilators available
  • 109,623 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

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