Although innovative measures are helping keep COVID-19 patients out of San Antonio hospitals, the local health care system remains under severe stress due to the delta variant, local officials said during a briefing Thursday. Heading into Labor Day weekend, Mayor Ron Nirenberg asked San Antonians to “remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.”

San Antonio’s revived infusion center and new home care efforts by health care providers are keeping some COVID-19 patients out of San Antonio hospitals, but officials are asking locals to continue to take precautions against COVID-19 as stress on the local system remains severe. Twenty-three more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the local total to 3,936, Nirenberg said.

Hospitals saw 195 new COVID-19 admissions in the past 24 hours, he said.

“So as our hospital census has dipped slightly, we’re still seeing … new admissions staying near those record numbers.” There are 361 patients in the ICU, 234 of which are on a ventilator, Nirenberg added.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said over the past week, the infusion center has seen about 120 patients a day — the most since the pandemic started. Since reopening last month, the center has treated 2,249 people with antibody therapy, Wolff said.

The University Health hospital system has also begun offering patients a “Hospital at Home” option which allows patients with COVID-19 and other ailments to receive care from home. Patients are visited twice a day by a nurse who checks vitals, uploads the patient’s information, and helps the patient connect with a physician virtually. 

During their visit, nurses administer infusions and medications and help make the patient comfortable, according to a press release from University Health. Patients have access to a nurse 24 hours a day through telemedicine and may also wear a biosensor that can alert health care providers if the patient is in distress, according to the release.

“So that’s all helped relieve the pressure on the hospitals,” Wolff said. In the last day, many hospitalized patients have switched to the at-home option, which has “opened up 45 hospital beds,” he said.

If it weren’t for these innovative measures, the San Antonio hospital system would be even more overwhelmed, Nirenberg said.

Going into Labor Day weekend, it’s important to still take precautions against COVID-19, said Anita Kurian, assistant director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Kurian said San Antonio has historically seen its caseload go up after a holiday weekend, so it’s vital to still mask up, wash hands, and get vaccinated if possible.

While San Antonio’s positivity rate has declined over the past two weeks and is currently at 10.6%, it’s still in the double digits, Nirenberg said.

“We’re not at the point where we can take our guard down by any stretch,” he said. “And we’re entering into a period where there’s going to be increased activity, so the combination of all those things puts us in a very definitive position. If we’re interested in moving on beyond COVID-19, we would be especially vigilant right now.”

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.