Bexar County’s coronavirus case count inched up Thursday, with 44 new reported cases for a total of 1,805, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
Two of those cases came from the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, which means 42 more people in the community tested positive. Even though that number has drifted higher over the past few days – Bexar County reported five new cases Monday, 23 new cases Tuesday, and 30 cases Wednesday apart from the jail population – San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Dawn Emerick said that’s not necessarily significant.
“The numbers have gone up a little bit, but we’re not alarmed by it,” she said. “When we look at the dashboard that we have set up on our website and all of those indicators, you don’t look at just one indicator … going up and say, ‘Oh gosh, what’s happening?'”
As the COVID-19 Health Transition Team outlined in its report, Metro Health tracks progress and warning indicators, Emerick said. Those include COVID-19 testing ability and the number of ventilators being used on COVID-19 patients. As hospitalization rates, EMS calls, and the rate of coronavirus-positive tests have held steady, Emerick said the county is in an “OK” position.
“If we start seeing that all of those trends start ticking up a little bit, then that’s when we’re going to kind of sit back and go, ‘All right, we need to look at this a little bit more,’” she said.
To date, Bexar County has administered nearly 31,000 coronavirus tests – 6.3 percent of which were positive test results. That number also has held fairly steady, Emerick said; the positivity rate was around 7 percent two weeks ago.
“Know that the more we test, the more that number will come down,” she said. “That’s a good thing.”
Thursday also marked the first day two pop-up testing sites at Las Palmas Library and Woodlawn Lake Park began accepting walk-up visitors. As of 4:10 p.m., Emerick said, both were nearing their daily testing limit of 150 at each site. Metro Health had not expected such robust turnout, she said.
“I think it says we should’ve been there earlier,” she said. “Looking at our ability to get tests in this community has been hard. The supplies have been down and in short supply. I think it’s definitely a sign that we should have been there earlier, and so we’re glad we’re there and we’ll continue to be there as long as we need to be.”
Anyone can walk up to the testing sites at Las Palmas Library and Woodlawn Lake Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a test, though those are meant to be prioritized for vulnerable populations and marginalized communities. Emerick said.
Both of those pop-up sites will close shop after Saturday, and Emerick said the next locations for walk-up testing have not been determined yet.
Meanwhile, both the City and County established guidelines Thursday on how to allocate their federal coronavirus relief act funding. The City received $270 million from the federal government, while the County received $79 million.
“Today we outlined a strategy that’s going to prioritize keeping people in their homes, making sure that people don’t lose their homes or go hungry because of this crisis, along with getting San Antonio workers online, trained, and educated for the post-COVID economy,” Nirenberg said. “This is an extraordinary team effort we’re doing here at the City with the Council and the community, along with Bexar County.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff noted that the County must consider how to run elections during a pandemic. County commissioners allocated $2.4 million in coronavirus relief funding toward elections earlier Thursday. The runoff election for the March primary is July 14.
“We are now in a bit of a debate over what to do about the mail-in ballots, and we’re going to meet again next Thursday, where we will be checking out that issue,” he said. “We believe very strongly – at least I do – that people have the right to [vote] by mail-in ballot.”
Wolff said he hopes the State of Texas will support cities’ initiative to expand access to mail-in ballots to prevent further the spread of coronavirus during elections. During their meeting Thursday, county commissioners asked the district attorney’s office to draft an opinion on lawsuits over mail-in ballot access.
“People with hypertension and diabetes, they’re very vulnerable,” Wolff said Thursday morning. “Who else is dying? Older people are dying, 65 and older. Who else is dying? We’re willing to jeopardize that over a stupid State law where you can’t ask for a ballot? It’s absolutely crazy.”