With more than 1,600 new cases of the coronavirus reported on Thursday, interim Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger on Thursday urged San Antonio residents to stay home during the December holidays.
With more than 1,600 new cases of the coronavirus reported on Thursday, interim Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger on Thursday urged San Antonio residents to stay home during the December holidays. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio’s top public health official on Thursday urged residents not to travel for Christmas gatherings.

Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager and interim director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, was asked at a Thursday press briefing whether visiting extended family members over the December holidays was safe.

“This one’s hard, and my simple answer is no,” Bridger said. “It’s not safe. Please don’t. I had to make the very difficult decision not to go visit my two-month-old granddaughter for Christmas because it’s not safe. It just doesn’t make any sense to travel outside the city to go to another state, for example, and gather with groups of family and friends. … It’s not just in San Antonio where the numbers are at record highs; it’s across the United States.”

Bexar County on Thursday saw 1,606 new cases of the coronavirus, the fourth-highest daily increase in cases over the course of the pandemic. The increase brought the county’s seven-day average to 1,100 cases. The seven-day average reached an all-time high of 1,715 on July 22.

An additional 104 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to local hospitals, and the total patient count stands at 837.

Although the incremental rise in patients is concerning, Bridger said on Thursday that hospitals are used to being very busy this time of year.

“Typically it’s due to flu,” she said. “This year it’s due to COVID. … They’re doing a good job keeping their head above water right now. But we saw how quickly that could turn in the summer. And so we want to get out in front of that now.”

Most likely because of widespread mask use and social distancing measures, cases of the flu are way down this year, she said. So that allays fears earlier in the year that an already-raging pandemic would be compounded by flu season.

As the state continues its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, hard-hit border cities such as those in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo have begun to inoculate their frontline health care workers. Texas is set to receive a total of 1.4 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year, and some of those will come from pharmaceutical company Moderna, which is on the verge of receiving emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who held a press conference on the ongoing distribution of the vaccine, said on Thursday that he hopes teachers will be part of the first groups to receive the vaccine after frontline health care workers and senior residents at long-term care facilities. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff were among a chorus of leaders who urged the governor to include education professionals among the high-priority groups to receive the vaccine.

“It’s certainly in the governor’s hands to do this, to make them a higher priority,” County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) said. “We want kids and teachers to be back in school, for this next semester, in a safe environment. … So hopefully it’s not just an aspiration [of the governor’s], but he actually takes some action.”

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

  • 99,142 total cases, 1,606 new cases
  • 1,440 deaths, no new deaths
  • 837 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 272 patients in intensive care
  • 134┬ápatients on ventilators, 61% ventilators available
JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the San Antonio Report's audience engagement editor.