San Antonio students are set to begin returning to the classroom after Labor Day weekend.
San Antonio students are set to begin returning to the classroom after Labor Day weekend. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

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While local COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in the right direction, officials declined on Friday to say Bexar County has a firm grip on the virus.

“We have a natural experiment getting ready to occur,” as schools are set to reopen for in-person instruction following Labor Day weekend, said Dr. Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer at University Health System.

Bexar County residents will need to keep wearing masks and social distancing for the foreseeable future to keep the virus at bay, Alsip said.

“We’re hoping [any surge] won’t be anywhere near what we’ve seen before,” including after Memorial Day when Bexar County saw a spike in new cases, he said.

Despite the improving numbers, the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in Bexar County rose slightly on Friday as 272 new cases were reported.

It now stands at 152 per day, up from 138 on Thursday, bringing the total caseload to 46,083. 

Area hospitals were treating 393 COVID-19 patients on Friday. The number of patients in intensive care decreased by one to 196, and the number of patients on ventilators decreased by seven to 125. 

Thirteen new deaths were reported among people age 50 to 89. The deaths occurred between July 2 and Aug. 24. Seven of them were deaths initially reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services and verified by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff was encouraged by the improving hospital numbers. 

Ages and ethnicities of the deceased

• 5 Hispanic men between ages 50 and 89

• 3 Hispanic women between ages 60 and 79

• 3 men of unknown ethnicity between ages 50 and 79

• 2 white men between ages 50 and 79

“That’s a good indicator that we’re clearly moving in the right direction,” Wolff said.

Wolff urged residents to be aware that some buildings could have faulty ventilation, which makes it even more important to wear a face covering. He also said it’s important to stay more than 6 feet away from people who are singing or shouting.

Wolff cited a study of a so-called superspreader event in March, when a church choir gathered for practice in Mount Vernon, Washington. The virus was found to have traveled as far as 45 feet because of the singing, and 53 of the 61 attendees tested positive for the coronavirus.  

In addition to following distance and face-covering precautions, officials said that getting a flu shot will be important to get through the flu season – which lasts from October to May – without another widespread outbreak of infectious disease. 

“If we do that, we could get through this winter season without another big outbreak or [more] people passing away,” Wolff said.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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