People with masks walk through Market Square.
People with masks walk through Market Square. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

If Bexar County residents continue to maintain social distancing and wear masks, the number of people hospitalized for the novel coronavirus will decline through September, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Tuesday citing new projection models.

“In other words, there is a possibility, according to the model, if we keep doing what we know works, what we’ve been doing for the last month or so, we can avoid a fall surge and keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed with COVID cases,” Nirenberg said. “That is encouraging, of course, after a month of discouraging news.”

Though the projection from health care analytics company Sg2 shows the public health precautions Bexar County residents are taking are working, Nirenberg cautioned the model could be wrong. The model only projects hospitalizations, which reflect the sickest people who contract the disease. 

“We don’t want a repeat of Memorial Day or the spikes that we saw even after the Fourth of July during the upcoming Labor Day weekend, so we should continue to work hard to keep those numbers down,” Nirenberg said.

The risk level for in-person learning at schools also improved slightly Tuesday, moving from “severe” to “moderate.” That risk is calculated by looking at the two-week declining rate, doubling rate, and positivity rate. San Antonio area’s coronavirus positivity rate dipped to an encouraging 9.9 percent after rising to 17.7 percent the week of July 19, but officials want that numbers to drop to 5 percent, Nirenberg said.

“That still keeps us in that yellow,” Bridger said, referencing the green to red risk scale. “Yellow means that there can be small pods of students who need extra help that can go on to the school campuses in small groups, and that the total capacity inside that school cannot exceed 25 percent. … Essentially, it means that schools can open to small numbers of students.”

Bexar County reported 124 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the county’s case total to 45,488. Hospital numbers continued to improve, with 458 patients hospitalized for COVID-19. Those hospitalized included 209 in intensive care and 139 on ventilators.

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

2 Hispanic females between ages 60 and 89

3 Hispanic males between ages 60 and 89

3 white females between ages 80 and 99

1 white male in his 90s

3 females of unknown ethnicity between ages 50 and 79

4 males of unknown ethnicity between ages 50 and 79

Testing demand also has declined, Bridger said. While Bexar County can test as many as 7,500 people, only about 2,500 to 3,000 tests are performed in the county each day. Asymptomatic patients are not being tested at any of the City’s three free testing sites.

“Over time, the number of people seeking COVID-19 testing has been falling as the number of people who are positive has been falling, as the number of people that are hospitalized has been falling,” Bridger said. “So all of those numbers are trending down, because I think we’re seeing less COVID-19 in the community.”

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported 16 more coronavirus-related deaths that occurred between July 21 and Aug. 18. Fourteen of those were determined to be coronavirus-related after Metro Health reviewed the death certificates. Eight men and eight women died, ranging from ages 50 to 99. While nine of the people had underlying medical conditions, the rest had unknown medical histories. Most were admitted to area hospitals, while one died at the assisted living facility Poet’s Walk and one died at home. 

A total of 741 Bexar County residents have died from the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.