City officials said local hospital systems are “quite prepared” as Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday announced initial steps to begin the process of reopening the Texas economy, including loosening surgery restrictions at medical facilities.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said hospitals “have enough [personal protective equipment]” to treat patients, making officials “comfortable that [allowing elective surgeries] will work out fine, despite a 38-person increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 959.

No new deaths were reported.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that while there was a “slight jump” in the number of people testing positive locally, “the numbers are starting to show some trending,” with data indicating that social distancing measures are working to slow the spread of the disease.

“We are not out of the woods, but what we are doing now is working,” Nirenberg said. “Stay the course. We want to make sure we save lives and keep people healthy.”

The effects of not maintaining social distancing can be seen in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, where an additional five people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of inmates infected to 15.

Wolff said that in the last several weeks, around 1,000 people were arrested and taken to the facility. New inmates are monitored for 14-days to ensure they are not infected before joining the general population.

“We can expect probably six more [inmates] will test positive,” Wolff said, noting the jail is doing “everything it can to contain the spread there.”

While state officials are making plans to slowly reopen retail stores and state parks, City officials reiterated that starting Monday, cloth face coverings are required to be worn by everyone 10 years and older in public spaces, and operating businesses will be required to provide face masks to employees.

Wolff said that expanded testing will be necessary as Bexar County works to transition into “normal economic activity.”

While testing expansion has been slow to roll out both locally and nationally, Anita Kurian, assistant director of the Metropolitan Health District’s communicable disease division, said there has been a vast improvement in the speed at which test results are being reported to the City.

“Initially there was a big delay in getting test results back from commercial labs, but those delays are getting smaller,” Kurian said, noting commercial labs are returning results within five days and Metro Health-contracted labs are returning results within two days.

The 1,800 COVID-19 test results that were pending from federally contracted labs on Thursday have been processed as of Friday clearing up the system and allowing for results to be returned much faster, Kurian said.

As hospitals plan to start accepting more patients and retail businesses gear up to provide product pickups, Texas schools will be closed through the end of the school year, Abbott said at a Friday press conference. This order applies to public and private schools, as well as institutions of higher education.

“The team of doctors advising us has determined that it would be unsafe to allow students to gather at schools for the foreseeable future,” Abbott said. “We must put health and safety first. We must prioritize protecting our most vulnerable populations.”

Wolff said there was “nothing he would disagree with or see as wrong” regarding Abbott’s plans to reopen the Texas economy and keep schools closed.

It’s important that the businesses choosing to reopen take people’s temperatures, and everyone needs to wear a mask, Wolff said. “And of course, you need to keep a six-foot distance, and continue to wash your hands. It isn’t over yet.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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