Classrooms inside Eloise Japhet Elementary have protective measures in place such as restricted desks that allow students to be socially distant.
Classrooms inside Eloise Japhet Elementary have protective measures in place such as restricted desks that allow students to be socially distant. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The percentage of Bexar County residents testing positive for the coronavirus has fallen below 5 percent, signaling that parents who wish to return their children to school may soon be able to do so.

The local positivity rate had waxed and waned over the past several weeks but now stands below 5 percent – falling from 5.9 percent last week to 4.9 percent on Monday – for the first time since early June. One of the key indicators local health officials track, the positivity rate provides a temperature check for the community; it tells epidemiologists how present the virus is in San Antonio.

A San Antonio Metropolitan Health District-formed committee of health experts and educators had identified the 5 percent threshold as an indicator of low transmission, and the group set that rate as one of the triggers that would relax protocols designed to curb the spread of the virus in schools.

Metro Health officials will announce Tuesday whether they are updating local guidance to permit students to learn in pods of greater than six students, exceed the current 25 percent capacity in classrooms, and bring additional students onto campus – in addition to prioritized populations such as special-needs students and those without internet connections at home.

Whether students return to in-person schooling or continue remote learning indefinitely would be up to their parents.

The decline in the positivity rate, however, coincided with a slight bump in the two-week decline. Metro Health monitors the number of infections and when they occurred over 14-day windows to determine whether the curve is steadily declining. From Sept. 14 to 21, the curve saw a slight rebound in cases.

“Caution is still very much advised,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Monday. “We’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the matter.”

Area hospitals saw a net increase of 19 COVID-19 patients, though it’s unclear if that is attributable to a delay in reporting over the weekend. The patient count in Bexar County rose from 200 on Sunday to 219 on Monday. Of the 219, 86 are in intensive care and 38 are on ventilators.

No deaths were reported on Monday, as the toll remained at 1,143.

An additional 68 cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday, bringing the overall caseload to 58,746 and the seven-day moving average to 136.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the San Antonio Report's audience engagement editor.