A 1,546-resident increase in Bexar County coronavirus cases on Tuesday is a result of locals letting their guard down following the Fourth of July weekend, officials said at a Tuesday briefing. 

But despite the spike in cases and the 12 new deaths reported among people age 30 to 99, the numbers have hit a plateau, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

The numbers “even started to turn down a little bit, which is a very good sign,” Nirenberg said, as the total count reached 37,984. But despite the improvements, the hospital system is still under severe stress, with 31 percent of all admissions attributed to COVID-19.

Ages and ethnic backgrounds of deceased

7 Hispanic men and 3 white men ranging in age from 30 to 99

2 Hispanic women ranging in age from 50 to 69

Area hospitals are treating 1,045 patients for COVID-19 symptoms, of which 413 are in intensive care, and 283 are on ventilators. 

Forty-five percent of ventilators are still available for use, Nirenberg said, and 12 percent of hospital beds are still available to treat COVID-19 patients. 

According to model projections, if Bexar County residents continue to follow the guidance of public health professionals, wear masks, and practice social distancing measures, the numbers will continue to go down, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. 

“There is more data coming out about the face mask and how important it is,” Wolff said, especially when it comes to coronavirus-infected residents who show no symptoms. “By wearing the mask, we are respecting others.”

Masks will be especially important as students begin gearing up for school, with some schools pushing for in-person learning as opposed to distance-based despite local public health orders dictating a Sept. 7 start to in-person instruction. 

Wolff said that there is a danger when it comes to the number of pediatric hospitalizations and case positives, with 12 percent of hospital admissions for COVID-19 being among Bexar County residents under age 18. But with cooperation between local government and schools, there will be a way for kids to go back to school safely, he said. 

“It’s in the best interest of parents and children and everyone in the community” to make sure that all schools are following the same guidance, Wolff said, adding he believes it would be best if all schools, regardless of location, follow the same guidelines. 

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health recently issued orders prohibiting any in-person schooling from taking place until at least after Labor Day, but Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote Tuesday in new guidance that public health authorities “don’t have the power to indiscriminately close schools – public or private.”

Because of Metro Health’s order, most of San Antonio’s private and public school systems have already told families their students would not return to campus until after Sept. 7.

City Attorney Andy Segovia said officials are working with the Texas Education Agency to provide guidance to local schools. But local officials worry the mixed messages from the State will lead to confusion.

“[Tuesday’s guidance on reopening schools] is a complete 180,” from the previous guidance the State gave schools, Segovia said. “It’s a real dilemma.”

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