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

Despite marked improvements over the past few weeks – leading to another downgrade Monday in the community’s COVID-19 risk level – officials are keeping a close eye on one indicator that is improving but at a glacial pace.

The positivity rate, the percentage of individuals who test positive for the novel coronavirus, now stands at over 11 percent, down from nearly 13 percent last week. But officials are aiming to get that number down to 5 percent by Labor Day, when the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District had hoped to give schools the green light to reopen their campuses.

At a televised coronavirus briefing on Monday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the positivity rate is the most important indicator because it shows how widespread the infection is in the community. 

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he is hopeful the positivity rate will go down next week as numbers continue to trend in the right direction, but “we still have a ways to go.”

Metro Health on Monday downgraded the area risk level for COVID-19 from steady to moderate. It’s the second consecutive week the risk level has been reduced. The Metro Health-devised system is a composite score accounting for seven public health indicators: the doubling rate, testing capacity, contact tracing, two-week decline in cases, hospital trends, positivity rate, and hospital stress. All indicators except for the positivity rate are below the severe rating.

The number of people being treated at area hospitals for symptoms of COVID-19 has decreased for the third week in a row. Still under high stress, the hospital system continues to see improvement in its capacity, Nirenberg said.

Area hospitals are treating 603 patients for COVID-19 symptoms, of which 267 are in intensive care (down 12 from Sunday) and 188 are on ventilators (down 4). 

The doubling rate as of Monday is 40 days, which Nirenberg said is “well above” Bexar County’s target of 21 days. The indicator is part of the calculus officials are using to guide school reopening decisions. 

Nineteen new deaths were reported on Monday, 16 of which were among the hundreds under investigation by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. The deaths were reported to the State from June 28 to Aug. 16. 

With 70 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday, the total is now 44,122.

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

9 Hispanic men between age 50 and 99

3 white men in their 50s

2 Hispanic women in their 50s and 90s

3 men of unknown ethnicity between age 50 and 69

1 Asian woman in her 70s

1 white woman in her 50s

With Labor Day weekend coming up, officials asked people to stay vigilant and remember the “herculean effort” it took to get COVID-19 warning indicators to trend in the right direction. 

“I’m concerned that … there’ll be some complacency and people’s guard will be let down,” Nirenberg said. “[If] everybody stays focused on what we’re trying to do, we can get through this as fast and as best we can.”

Roseanna Garza

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