Schools are once again being advised to limit in-person schooling after the local coronavirus positivity rate increased.
Schools are once again being advised to limit in-person schooling after the local coronavirus positivity rate increased. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The positivity rate has climbed up again – just a week after it had fallen below the ever-important 5 percent threshold, which gave schools the go-ahead to resume in-person instruction for any student who wants it.

With the positivity rate increasing from 4.9 percent last week to 5.8 percent this week, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has upgraded the coronavirus risk level in schools from low to moderate and is advising local schools to follow yellow-zone protocols, meaning in-person instruction should be prioritized for students with special needs or those without reliable home internet connections. And room occupancy should be capped at 25 percent while students studying in person should learn in groups of six or fewer.

“This tells us the virus is still active in our community and is transmitting from person to person,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

These protocols are recommendations, and local school districts have been free to form their own timelines for reopening all along. Metro Health’s guidance on reopening schools became rather toothless when State actions prevented the local health authority from making these protocols mandatory.

Local districts do not follow the guidance to the letter but have formulated their own protocols and schedules that work for them. However, none are returning to 100 percent capacity, Nirenberg said.

“They’re all very mindful and watching the guidance as well, which we’re very appreciative of,” he said. “Certainly, as this fluctuates, that’ll underscore wise decisions made on public health guidance.”

Despite the increase in the positivity rate, the risk level score overall remains low in Bexar County, as local testing and contact tracing capacity is in strong shape; the rate at which coronavirus cases are doubling is three months, a sign of progress is combating transmission; and local hospitals are moderately stressed, according to the City.

The county recorded 46 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the overall caseload to 59,730 and the seven-day moving average of new cases to 140.

Area hospitals are treating 184 COVID-19 patients, 78 of which are in intensive care and 40 of which are on ventilators. Hospital bed capacity and ventilator capacity are at 16 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

No new deaths were reported on Monday, keeping the local toll at 1,201.

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.