Bexar County on Thursday saw the highest jump in new coronavirus cases in a day since it started tracking numbers in mid-March. 

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said 638 new lab-confirmed cases were reported, bringing the total to 8,452, but of equal concern, he said, is the jump in hospitalization rates and the number of people being treated in intensive care units and on ventilators. 

Patients being treated in area hospitals for symptoms of COVID-19 numbered 628 Thursday, and for the first time more than 200 people are being treated in intensive care units, an increase of 38 for a total of 202, Nirenberg said. Ninety-four patients are on ventilators. 

San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo said people need to think about wearing masks in the same way they think about voting and remind themselves of the slogan ‘every vote counts,’ because no one knows if their vote will be the one that wins the election. 

Woo said people are “hyperfocused” on arguing against wearing masks, which is “like people being really partisan about brushing their teeth or using mouthwash.”

“People need to brush their teeth,” Woo said. “Just like people need to wear masks and keep” a safe distance from others. 

City officials echoed what Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday when he recommended that if people do not have anywhere they need to go, it’s best to stay at home. 

“We are already at a threshold [of positive cases and hospitalizations] where we are begging people to stop” leaving their homes, to wear masks, and practice physical distancing, Woo said. “We are at the point of having chest pains. Do we have to have a heart attack to get people to pay attention?”

Nirenberg said he and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff have been having conversations with Abbott to allow counties to have additional authority over local jurisdictions, but until then it’s up to people to do their part locally by following the recommendations in place. 

“If we don’t work together on this mask issue by mid-August, we will have 1,900 people in the hospital,” Wolff said, noting it was “a good move” for Abbott to ban elective procedures at area hospitals Thursday to ensure each had 15 percent of beds designated for COVID-19 patients. 

Nirenberg said what is “frustrating” about the dramatic spike in cases locally is that, in late May, “this county had the best record and the lowest infection rate of any urban area in the U.S. – or darn close.”

“Unless we work together, this car is going full speed toward a brick wall and we all have our role to play in making sure we don’t hit it,” Nirenberg said. 

This article has been updated to clarify that 628 people are currently being treated for COVID-19 in local hospitals. The previous version incorrectly implied that 628 people had been admitted Thursday.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.