Schools will be prepared this fall to handle the combination of coronavirus, flu season, and reopening, as Texas has ample supply of personal protective equipment, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday in San Antonio.

Abbott said that providing adequate PPE was one of the State’s top priorities during the course of the pandemic, and Texas has spent more than $1 billion stocking up. With the help of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the State has already provided more than 130 million masks, 33 million gloves, 7 million gowns, and 4 million face shields to various entities across the state.

Although a local government order requiring the postponement of in-person schooling until Labor Day was nullified by State actions in recent weeks, local school boards should still consult with public health experts as they determine their own policies, Abbott said.

“Nothing is stopping them from doing that,” he said. “And they can fully adopt whatever strategy the local public health authority says.”

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the State continue to butt heads over disparities in the COVID-19 data each is reporting.

On Tuesday, 10 more COVID-19-related deaths were reported in Bexar County, bringing the death toll to 380. But the Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting 622 deaths in Bexar County. Local health authorities claim the 244-fatality difference is attributable in part to residents from outside the area dying at local health care facilities. 

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

4 white men ranging in age from their 40s to their 90s

2 Hispanic women in their 60s

4 Hispanic men in their 40s, 50s, and 90s

Funeral homes and the medical examiner’s office report deaths in batches; there are often many reported at one time as opposed to having a day-by-day reporting of numbers. 

Abbott said that DSHS sets the standard for how COVID-19 cases are reported, which includes using death certificates as provided by health care providers or medical examiners, but Metro Health said the numbers reflect confusion in reporting due to discrepancies at the state and local level. 

The delay in reporting cause of death between State and local officials is partly because hospitals report to the State first, said Dr. Sandra Guerra, Metro Health’s assistant medical director.

The local health department does a case analysis that is more in-depth than that of the State to ensure numbers aren’t duplicated and that the true cause of death is reported, Guerra said. State and local numbers are subject to change depending on available information, she said.

In Bexar County, 136 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to 41,274. Area hospitals are treating 838 COVID-19 patients, and 336 are in intensive care. 

With 238 people currently on ventilators, 50 percent of ventilators are still available in Bexar County. About 17 percent of hospital beds are still available, Nirenberg said. 

But vigilance remains key, as the positivity rate stands at 15 percent, he said.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be in order for all of us to get back to some of those activities that we’ve been enjoying,” he said. “COVID-19 is still in our community, and if we keep up mask-wearing and physical distancing we will avoid another spike of cases.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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