A family takes a selfie while sitting along the San Antonio River Walk during spring break.
A family takes a selfie while sitting along the San Antonio River Walk during spring break. Credit: Bria Woods/ San Antonio Report

That quasi-return-to-normalcy we’ve been told about is starting to hit almost every place you can think of.

On Thursday the City of San Antonio announced it was reopening a spate of public-facing facilities, such as public libraries and the animal shelter, as the coronavirus risk in Bexar County continues to be “low,” according to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District-devised risk level indicator.

Those buildings will begin to reopen – at reduced capacity and with COVID-19 protocols in place – on Monday.

It’s not just public services that are emerging from COVID hibernation. I’m noticing more and more people, now that they have full immunity from the vaccine, are returning to their workplaces. My colleague Jackie Wang was among the local news reporters who attended Thursday’s San Antonio City Council meeting in person. It was the first meeting held in the City Council chambers since November, when the municipal body moved to all-virtual meetings amid a surge in cases then.

The low numbers are one thing, but the speed at which the local vaccine rollout is going is likely to breathe pre-pandemic life into the city in the weeks to come. Last week, more than 95,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Bexar County, the highest weekly tally ever. With a boosted supply of vaccines this week, I’d imagine the county will top that figure.

Already, about 36% of age-eligible residents in the county have had at least one shot. Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said the San Antonio area has the highest percentage of vaccinated residents of any major Texas metro.

Local vaccination site providers have also been making it easier for people to get vaccinated. This week, the City announced residents age 75 and older would be able to show up to the Alamodome vaccination site without an appointment (the previous age range was 85 and above), and University Health opened a new vaccination hub at St. Philip’s College, where people age 16 or older can walk up for an appointment from 3 to 5 p.m. each afternoon.

With the steady hum of activity you see at local vaccination sites, you wouldn’t think there’d be many people who are hesitant to get the vaccine. A new poll revealed how sentiments among Bexar County voters has changed. In September, about 31% of poll respondents said they were unlikely to get vaccinated. Now just 16% are hesitant, according to the figures.

To date, vaccine hesitancy hasn’t been much of an issue, certainly not in Bexar County. That may change as the vaccine supply goes from scarcity to surplus.

This all is far from over, of course, as parts of the globe are battling significant COVID-19 variants. Perhaps the worst-hit country in the world is Brazil, which has been rocked by the P1 variant. That variant has caused a rise in severe illness and death in that country. A double-mutant variant first detected in India was recently found in the U.S. And the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom recently became the dominant variant in this country.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

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