Health officials have completed coronavirus testing at 28 out of 65 Bexar County nursing homes, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Thursday.

As of Wednesday night, 1,624 nursing home staff and 1,263 nursing home residents in the county had been tested, Nirenberg said.

“We’re closely monitoring these facilities and isolating any positive patients that are identified,” he said.

The goal to test all nursing homes comes from a gubernatorial mandate. Gov. Greg Abbott directed state health and emergency departments last week to assist in testing 100 percent of residents and staff at nursing homes. 

Though visiting nursing homes and movement of staff between facilities has been halted, that doesn’t mean the virus can’t spread, said Dawn Emerick, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

“Things were locked down several weeks before we had some outbreaks in other nursing homes,” she said. “This is a tricky virus. We try to do as much as we can to mitigate all those things.”

Bexar County reported an additional 49 COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 2,371. There are 82 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 40 of which are in intensive care and 20 are on ventilators. Nirenberg reported one more death Thursday, a male in his 50s who died at a Baptist Health System hospital. No other details were provided. There have been 64 coronavirus-related deaths in the county.

As it did at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, mass testing at area nursing homes can skew the overall number of reported COVID-19 cases in the county. Thursday’s count included at least six cases in congregate settings other than the jail.

Because of the governor’s directive, Metro Health is focusing on testing residents and staff at all nursing homes before switching its attention to assisted-living facilities, Emerick said. Officials hope to complete testing at nursing homes by the end of next week.

“That’s next in the queue, to do the assisted-living facilities,” she said. 

But if a COVID-19 positive case were to appear in an assisted-living facility, Metro Health would test everyone in that facility, Emerick said.

River City Care Center, a nursing home that serves as an isolation facility for coronavirus-positive residents from area nursing homes, currently houses 38 people, Emerick said.

The San Antonio City Council on Thursday approved the mayor’s latest emergency order, which mirrors that of the governor’s. Both allow restaurants to open with no more than 50 percent of normal in-person capacity and businesses such as bars can open with up to 25 percent capacity.

The City has decided against closing any of its parks over Memorial Day weekend, Nirenberg said Thursday.

“We’re asking everyone to be vigilant and do what you can,” he said. “If you’re in proximity to someone who’s not in your household, wear a mask. That’s one of the simple ways of slowing the spread of disease.”

People should keep washing their hands frequently, and businesses must take the proper precautions as well, Nirenberg said.

“It’s weekends like this, when there’s a surge of new activity, [that] we have the highest risk of things going in the wrong direction,” he said. “We want everybody to do their part so we can continue the steady march forward to opening our community back up again.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.