The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District budget proposal for 2021 includes more than $30 million in coronavirus relief funds, but a top department official said that isn’t enough to address the impact the pandemic has caused.

The vast majority of federal funding to address the impact of coronavirus in Bexar County will end in December, said Colleen Bridger, interim Metro Health director and assistant city manager. “We’re very hopeful that the federal government will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that continued funds come to the local health departments that are on the front lines responding to this pandemic,” Bridger said.

News of the budget shortfall comes as 20 deaths were reported on Tuesday among residents between ages 40 and 99, bringing the toll to 637.

The deaths were reported between June 23 and Aug. 13, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a televised briefing Tuesday. Ten of the fatalities were previous deaths reported to the state that Metro Health has confirmed.

Bridger said that the death investigations are no small task, and that Metro Health employees have to review medical records, make multiple phone calls, and complete geocoding to convert home addresses into geographic coordinates to ensure that the person who died was in fact a Bexar County resident.

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

8 Hispanic men between ages 40 and 89

5 men of unknown ethnicity between ages 50 and 69

2 Hispanic women between ages 80 and 99

2 white women between ages 70 and 99

2 women of unknown ethnicity in their 80s

1 Black man in his 70s

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Oh, this death certificate says COVID-19,'” Bridger said.

Metro Health is still investigating 265 deaths reported as COVID-19 related to ensure the person had a positive test on file and was a Bexar County resident.

With 143 new cases of coronavirus reported on Tuesday, the total is now 44,265, Nirenberg said, and hospital numbers are continuing to move in the right direction.

Area hospitals are treating 569 people for COVID-19 symptoms, 34 fewer than the total reported on Monday. Intensive-care patients account for 255, and 184 are on ventilators.

The rate of COVID-19 patient admissions at area hospitals has been on a steady decline over the past several weeks, hitting 15 percent on Tuesday, Nirenberg said. Also, 55 percent of ventilators are available along with 14 percent of hospital beds.

In an effort to keep people from crowding together, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that officials are working on pop-up voting sites for the November election.

The county manager is sending an application to vote by mail to anyone in Bexar County over age 65, and four polling sites have been identified to allow those voting in person to social distance, Wolff said, including the AT&T Center and Mission Concepción Sports Park.

“We are prohibited from requiring [voters to wear] a face mask,” Wolff said, “so we’re making sure we have all the equipment that’s necessary to protect the workers as well as” voters going to the polls.

Roseanna Garza

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