The death toll in Bexar County is approaching 200, with 11 more COVID-19 fatalities reported Monday. The deceased ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s.

In the past week, local health officials have reported about a third, or 65, of the overall 195 deaths tied to COVID-19 in Bexar County.

The increasingly dire state of the local outbreak has prompted officials to issue a new risk-level warning. Taking into account seven indicators of the virus’s spread and impact on health care infrastructure, the San Antonio area is approaching critical levels. Among the indicators are the positivity rate (about 24 percent of local tests produce a positive), hospital trends, and whether there has been a two-week decline in new cases. Those three indicators are at critical levels, according to the City.

Bexar County added 565 new cases Monday, bringing the total case count to 20,213. Of the reported cases, 7,886 are considered recovered by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department, while 12,132 remain ill, according to the City’s coronavirus surveillance data

With 1,267 COVID-19 patients receiving treatment in local hospitals, and an increasing number of intensive-care and ventilated patients, the South Texas Regional Advisory Council, a 22-county network of emergency health care facilities and first responders, revised its assessment of local hospital system stress. Area health care facilities are now in the highest category of stress, according to STRAC’s scoring system.

Just 10 percent of staffed hospitals beds remain available.

“Our hospital system now is under severe stress,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during a briefing on the coronavirus situation Monday evening. 

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he is concerned about students returning to San Antonio public schools in August, where they could put each other and their teachers at risk. He asked the State to give school districts the flexibility to either stagger classes, delay opening, or offer online education options.

“We hope that the Texas Education Agency will give these districts some ability to stage and to say how many people ought to be there,” Wolff said. “This could be another big problem already laying on top of a huge problem.”

Nirenberg said City and County officials will be meeting with local superintendents and to further discuss their plans. 

In a tweet Monday, Nirenberg criticized State officials for pushing Texas to reopen too soon and too fast.

“A healthy economy can only start with healthy people, but our well-being is threatened by this surge,” he said. “If we’re unable to contain the spread, we’ll have no choice but to” roll back reopening measures.

Nirenberg said although Gov. Greg Abbott’s rollback measures such as closing bars and issuing a mask mandate were a step in the right direction, additional restrictions are needed until the pandemic comes under control. 

Wolff agreed, calling for the San Antonio Police Department and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to step up citations for anyone breaking Abbott’s 100-person limit on mass gatherings. Businesses exceeding a capacity of 50 percent could face a $1,000 fine, and citizens at social gatherings larger than 100 people could face up to a $250 penalty.

“The governor asked us to do that, by the way, just two to three days ago,” Wolff said. “So I think we do now need to.”

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the Science & Utilities reporter for the San Antonio Report.