Anyone who participated in local demonstrations against police brutality over the past few days and did not wear a face covering should get tested for the new coronavirus, the City’s top health official said Thursday.

Because many were in close quarters with each other for long periods of time, coronavirus spread is possible, said Dawn Emerick, the director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

At a local briefing on the coronavirus situation on Thursday, Emerick said participants who seek testing after the protests should also self-quarantine until the test results come back.

“It is quite possible [there will be an uptick in people testing positive for coronavirus]” because people have been gathering in large crowds over the past six days, Emerick said. “If you are going to one of these demonstrations, we highly recommend you wear a mask” and practice physical distancing when possible. 

The recommendation comes following a 65-case increase in positive coronavirus tests, bringing the total in Bexar County to 3,018. Of those cases, 24 were spread among members of the broader community. One person tested positive at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, and one tested positive in other group settings such as senior care centers. 

Thirty-nine cases are still being investigated by Metro Health to determine where the virus was contracted. 

Following advice from health professionals has “saved lives and protected the community,” and local numbers continue to be stable, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

Because of the stable situation, Nirenberg said that instead of daily COVID-19 briefings, information about local cases will be provided to the community at 6:13 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Residents are encouraged to continue to get tested if they are concerned they came in contact with someone who tested positive, he said. 

“Testing is still widely available now more than ever, and there is significant testing capacity in the community” that will help local officials make informed decisions, Nirenberg said. 

Both Nirenberg and Bexar Cunty Judge Nelson Wolff said that while they have been working in the community more as restrictions on businesses continue to lift and people are congregating in large settings in public spaces, they have not been tested for COVID-19. 

“Nobody in our families has it, so I think that is a good sign,” Wolff said about himself and Nirenberg. “I am careful, I do use the bandana, and I do try to stay 6 feet away. I also try to not hang out in one place for too long. I hadn’t really thought about getting tested; maybe I will.”

Nirenberg said he is “probably going to get a test” since he has spent a significant amount of time addressing the media and the community as Black Lives Matter demonstrations continue to take place throughout the community. 

Metro Health keeps in contact with infected individuals to monitor their symptoms, connect people to a hospital for medical attention, or determine whether the person has recovered, Emerick said.

“If you never get tested, we won’t be able to contact you,” she said.

Nirenberg said ramped-up testing efforts are continuing to prove successful, with 245 tests administered Thursday at Blossom Athletics Center’s Littleton Gym and Somerset Elementary School, in addition to those tested at other free sites throughout the community. 

“There is a lot of activity going on,” and anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed to someone who does should be tested, Nirenberg said. “Testing sites will continue to be made available throughout the community.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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