This story has been updated.

Coronavirus cases have spiked in San Antonio, with 3,894 reported Monday, along with a seven-day moving average of 2,055 — a 683% jump since the last time local health officials reported that statistic.

Shortly after publishing the new numbers Monday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District sent out a press release stating the city’s COVID-19 risk level has been upgraded from mild to severe, with a positivity rate of more than 27%.

On Dec. 22, the seven-day average was 301 cases. Hospitalizations are also rising, although not as quickly.

The jump is dramatic in part because the city paused updating its official dashboard between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 for the holidays. It resumed updating the dashboard Monday.

Local health officials told the San Antonio Report last week and also stated over the weekend they have been seeing a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Bexar County over the last few weeks.

Hospitalizations have increased from 352 last Thursday to 506 Monday. While case numbers started climbing last week, according to state data, there is typically a two-week lag before hospitalizations start to rise from a new wave, said Rita Espinoza, Metro Health’s chief of epidemiology.

As the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads through the area, residents are strongly encouraged to wear a well-fitting mask, practice social distancing, get vaccinated and obtain their booster shots when eligible, Metro Health said in its statement.

“Our community is undergoing a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the fast-spreading omicron variant, and we all need to continue to take precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “While the case numbers are surging, the data indicate that vaccines are preventing severe illness. Vaccines remain the best defense against any variant of COVID-19. Get vaccinated, wear a mask and stay home if you are sick.”

Because the majority of the San Antonio population is vaccinated — Metro Health estimates that, as of mid-December, 80.6% of the county’s total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine while 66.3% have received two — and because the omicron variant appears to be causing milder cases, officials are hopeful the region will not experience as drastic an increase in hospitalizations this time around.

Though we are watching the data closely,” Espinoza said.

This spike in case numbers marks the pandemic’s fourth major wave through San Antonio and its most drastic increase since the delta wave in late summer and fall. Since the start of the pandemic, San Antonio has endured 4,977 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the latest data.

The omicron wave has also brought an increased demand for testing, with residents complaining about long lines on various social media sites, including Reddit and Next Door.

While the city has stated there is enough testing capacity in the community, “the City has requested expanded capacity at the state’s testing sites,” Metro Health said in its statement. The city also has authorized additional testing sites to be established over the coming days, Metro Health stated.

Community Labs and the city have partnered in the past to offer community testing, but the nonprofit has no established city testing sites at the moment, Webber said.

“I join in that frustration because we’re better able to support the issue — we can do 40,000 tests a day now,” Webber told the San Antonio Report.

Following several calls from the San Antonio Report to city officials Monday inquiring whether the city plans to utilize Community Labs again, Metro Health Director Claude Jacob said Monday that “leadership is still assessing the best options regarding testing capacity in the city” and will update the public “as additional information becomes available.”

Shortly after, a Community Labs spokeswoman said Metro Health officials had reached out to Webber to discuss expanding testing.

“We’re another tool in their toolbox,” Webber said. “I think we can be a very effective tool at slowing the spread.”

Late last week, the city requested additional federal testing resources from the state, City Manager Erik Walsh said in the statement. 

To find a city testing site, click here.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the Science & Utilities reporter for the San Antonio Report.