Roy De La Garza is the first patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital on Wednesday.
Roy De La Garza is the first patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital on Wednesday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System, San Antonio’s VA hospital, administered vaccinations on Wednesday to military veterans at high risk of developing a serious COVID-19 infection.

Roy De La Garza, an 81-year-old U.S. Navy and Coast Guard veteran who lives at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital’s community living center, was the facility’s patient to be vaccinated. Both his daughter and granddaughter were infected with the virus and recovered, he said.

Born and raised in San Antonio, De La Garza told us he’s excited to someday hold his newborn great-granddaughter, whom he has only met behind a glass partition.

For now, vaccinated residents must continue wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and observing all of the necessary COVID-19 protocols. Inoculated people can still carry the virus and spread it.

Patients at the community living center and also spinal cord injury patients were among the first group at the VA hospital to get immunized, along with staff.

“We’ve been busy for several weeks now, preparing for the vaccine rollout and setting up our clinics to be able to vaccinate our employees,” said Peter Trang, chief of pharmacy service at the hospital. “And then we will move on to our veterans.”

The hospital is vaccinating about 200 employees a day. It received close to 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-produced COVID-19 vaccine and plans to use them all.

If there’s a refrain we’ve been hearing in light of the vaccine rollout, it’s “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

We can see it. It’s ever so close, but we still need to get through a difficult winter.

On Wednesday, nearly 100 more patients were admitted to local hospitals with COVID-19 infections, as about 1,400 new cases of the coronavirus brought the seven-day moving average up to 1,038. The COVID-19 patient count stands at 826, with 267 in intensive care and 130 on ventilators.

“Please do not let your guard down just because the vaccines are here,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Wednesday press briefing. “Unless 70 percent of the people around you have been vaccinated, nothing has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly not over – not even close.”

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

  • 97,536 total cases, 1,396 new cases
  • 1,440 deaths, six new deaths
  • 826 in hospital, 9% beds available
  • 267 patients in intensive care
  • 130 patients on ventilators, 62% ventilators available

Additional reporting by Photo Editor Scott Ball.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.