As Halloween approaches, Bexar County’s coronavirus numbers are creeping up.

On Monday, officials reported that the coronavirus positivity rate had climbed from 5.8 percent last week to 6.9 percent. The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus is the “canary in the coal mine” figure that helps health officials determine the severity of the local outbreak. This is the highest the positivity rate has been since Sept. 1, when the rate stood at 7.8 percent.

“We are now seeing the stages of an increase in cases and hospitalizations,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Monday press briefing, adding Bexar County is still on the front end of a possible surge and can control its fate by observing the proper precautions. “Please do everything you can to make sure you follow the health guidance. Wear your mask, physical distancing, all the things the public health professionals have been telling us about. It is crucial to put those into place right now.”

The increase in the positivity rate, as well as a rebound in positive coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, has led public health officials to upgrade the COVID-19 risk level from low to moderate. With residents likely to gather during Halloween, which lands on a Saturday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s chief of informatics Golareh Agha said on Monday that it would be a “make or break” week in determining the severity of the uptick in coronavirus cases.

The uptick is an early warning, Agha said.

“Let’s just focus on taking this early sign as if it was as important as if we had a spike and prevent [the spike] from happening,” she said.

Area hospitals are treating 248 COVID-19 patients, 91 of whom are in intensive care and 45 of whom are on ventilators. Hospitalizations in Bexar County have been rising steadily over the past week.

An increase of 151 coronavirus cases brought the cumulative total to 64,767 and the seven-day moving average to 192, up from 184.

No COVID-19 deaths were reported on Monday, leaving the toll at 1,247.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.