The total number of coronavirus cases in Bexar County jumped to 1,374, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Thursday. That’s 48 new cases, the largest single-day increase since April 21.

Much of that bump can be attributed to more testing at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger said. On Thursday, 126 inmates were tested at the jail.

“We expect that number to increase with more testing that we do,” she said.

Bexar County reported two additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths so far to 48. One of those deaths was an African American male in his 30s; the person who died Wednesday whose details were not yet available was a Caucasian woman in her 80s, Nirenberg said.

A Bexar County detention deputy also died Thursday. Timothy De La Fuente was a 27-year veteran with the sheriff’s office; the cause of death has not been finalized though he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

“This morning he called in to say that he was complaining of pains and a dry cough,” Wolff said. “His wife was getting ready to take him to the emergency center, but when in the restroom, he passed away at home. It’s a tragedy and one that clearly shows that all of us are vulnerable, regardless of our age and regardless of what’s happening with our lives.”

One of the challenges inside the jail is the number of asymptomatic positive cases, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. Mass testing of inmates began a few days ago, he said.

“These were asymptomatic inmates that we tested,” he said. “There’s still a lot not known about how they pass it on and how that happens.”

The number of inmates who tested positive has risen dramatically in the past few days, Wolff said. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Thursday that 129 inmates total have tested positive at the jail; on Tuesday, that number was 64. Increased testing also led to nine new COVID-19 cases among detention deputies Thursday, the sheriff’s office said on Twitter.

Wolff also said he is concerned about the potential increases in coronavirus cases after businesses begin reopening on Friday, per State and local orders. Restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, museums, and libraries can start allowing in-person visitors as long as they limit the number of people and space them out properly.

“Unfortunately, people higher up continue to muddle the message,” Wolff said without elaborating. “We don’t know how many asymptomatic people have COVID-19. So face masks, social distancing, washing your hands, disinfectants – all those things are so important. As we start tomorrow, we’re encouraging everyone to adhere to that.”

As restrictions are relaxed, Bridger said Metro Health will continue to encourage people to get tested for coronavirus. An average of 700 to 900 people per day are being tested, though the San Antonio area has the capacity to test up to 3,000 each day, she said.

“We have some slack in our capacity that we really want to fill up right now, as we’re working to expand the number of tests we do to 3,000,” she said. “Some of the things that we’re going to be doing to expand the number of tests is going to be targeting those areas that seem to be underrepresented in either the self-screening or the actual testing.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.