The lights of the Alamodome and the Tower of the Americas were turned off in an effort to conserve energy as hundreds of thousands of people in San Antonio were without power earlier in the week.
The lights of the Alamodome and the Tower of the Americas were turned off in an effort to conserve energy as hundreds of thousands of people in San Antonio were without power earlier in the week. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Curve has been on hiatus as the winter storm has brought on a crisis of statewide proportions, leaving at one point hundreds of thousands without power in San Antonio and its entire citizenry under a boil-water notice.

Compounding the already-devastating issue, the significant numbers of residents seeking shelter in congregate settings or staying with friends or relatives likely won’t feel safe from contracting the coronavirus.

Dr. Junda Woo, the city’s medical director, was asked about the possibility of a coronavirus surge in light of the fact that many residents may be staying at homes they don’t normally live in.

“It’s possible,” she said. “There are a lot of variables, and I try not to predict; we just have to see.”

Asked a similar question later in Thursday’s special briefing on the winter storm and the COVID-19 pandemic, Woo said because more people are gathered indoors, there is stronger potential for coronavirus spread.

To catch you up on the coronavirus situation, as the intervening week has felt like a lifetime, San Antonio only confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant originally detected in the United Kingdom last week, just as the positive coronavirus test rate had fallen below 10% for the first time in months and hospitalizations were swiftly decreasing.

Now the virus may be allowed to spread in its prime habitat: a chilly indoor setting with people huddling together for warmth. This is not a speculation on whether that has occurred but rather a delineation of how this situation mirrors previous superspreader periods such as the holidays.

The circumstances, however, are opposite in virtually every other category. Facing the brutal cold and a possibly contaminated or shut-off drinking water supply with young children or elderly relatives in your home, what choice would you have but to risk contact with other folks?

For his part, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said COVID-19 protocols, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, and sanitation, were in place at the Henry B. González Convention Center where the city stood up a warming center that can shelter as many as 500 people at a time. Dial 311 if you need transportation to the warming center.

Woo said on Thursday that the integrity of local vaccine providers’ supply remains intact despite mass power outages.

“Those were stored in freezers that had backup generators,” she said. “And thermometer alarms [go off] if we move above or below a certain range, so we are confident in our vaccines still working.”

Second-dose appointments at the Alamodome will take place Friday with a later-than-usual start – from noon to 6:30 p.m. If your appointment was scheduled earlier than those times, you can arrive anytime between the hours the site will be in operation, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

The University Health System has suspended vaccinations set for Friday but will be open Saturday, County Judge Nelson Wolff said Thursday. Makeup days are also available for people who were scheduled for appointments this week but were unable to make it due to the weather. Visit the UHS website for more.

The icy road conditions throughout the country have delayed shipments of the vaccine to sites nationwide, including San Antonio, Wolff said. The state’s weekly allotment of vaccines did not arrive on schedule because of the weather conditions. Look for providers to take care of any missed second doses in the coming days and weeks.

No data was provided on local coronavirus deaths or cases on Thursday; those updates will resume Friday. Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Thursday:

  • 187,746 total cases as of Feb. 13
  • 2,397 deaths as of Feb. 13
  • 695 in hospital
  • 275 patients in intensive care
  • 149 patients on ventilators
  • 210,070 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

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