County Judge Nelson Wolff said San Antonio saw its worst day of the holiday season, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged on the same day local health care workers began receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged on the same day local health care workers began receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

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San Antonio officials had hoped they’d seen the last of the post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge. Tuesday’s caseload showed the COVID-19 spike is still raging weeks after the holiday.

An additional 1,359 coronavirus cases were added to the Bexar County cumulative tally as the area approaches 100,000 cumulative cases over the course of the pandemic. The total patient count climbed to 800 amid a wave of new hospitalizations.

“The hospital numbers are up across the board, folks, and that’s a concern for everyone,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Tuesday press briefing. “We’re at a very precarious point right now, and we need everyone to be very diligent about the safety protocols.”

“To me, this is the worst day we’ve had since we’ve entered this [holiday] season,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, adding local hospitals haven’t had 800 COVID-19 patients since the summer.

Hospitals in the county admitted 120 new COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, and new admissions are typically reflected in the next day’s report.

“So the indications are it’s going to get worse over the next few days in the hospital,” Wolff said.

Bexar County isn’t alone in facing a new surge in hospitalizations. Health care systems throughout the state and country are beginning to feel the crushing weight of Thanksgiving-related spread, so that’s why the mass inoculation of health care workers and the area’s most vulnerable residents is so important.

On Tuesday, frontline health care professionals at UT Health San Antonio and other local medical facilities became the first in the city to receive the just-arrived COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer. With Moderna’s vaccine expected to be approved by the end of the week, more doses will be on the way.

Adelita Cantu, associate professor of nursing at UT Health, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in San Antonio.

“Keep in mind the vaccine is not a cure,” Nirenberg cautioned. “There’s a long way [to go] for us to get the number of vaccines available that we can start vaccinating people in the general public.”

Six additional deaths, among residents ages 60 to 79, brought the local toll to 1,435.

About a fifth of all hospitalized patients in the county have COVID-19. Of the 800 total patients, 270 are in intensive care, and 134 are on ventilators.

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

  • 96,140 total cases, 1,359 new cases
  • 1,435 deaths, six new deaths
  • 800 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 270 patients in intensive care
  • 134 patients on ventilators, 59% ventilators available

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