University Hospital will begin limiting the amount of visitors allowed inside due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Because of the growing number of coronavirus cases, University Hospital will begin limiting visitors again. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Rising coronavirus cases in San Antonio are prompting a return to visitor restrictions at University Hospital and a switch back to remote work for one city councilman’s office.

On Tuesday, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials said the coronavirus positivity rate in Bexar County had jumped to 17%, up from 13% last week, with the seven-day average of cases rising to 589.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in area hospitals now stands at 585, with 93 new admissions, 183 in the intensive care unit, and 76 on ventilators.

“The pandemic is lingering, and we have more transmissible variants of the virus circulating in our community so we did expect a number of latent infections to occur,” said Anita Kurian, assistant director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. “This compounded with the fact that we still have a significant proportion of folks who are unvaccinated [and] with the economy reopening and folks going back to doing things that they were doing prior to the pandemic, we did expect the cases to rise.”

With infections and hospitalizations climbing “at an alarming rate,” University Health announced Tuesday it was reinstating visitor restrictions put in place last year. Starting Wednesday, University Hospital will not allow people to visit patients except those deemed necessary for a patient’s care.

Those include one to two parents or guardians for pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit patients, one support person for labor & delivery/postpartum patients, one support person for patients with disabilities or impairments warranting assistance, one support person/driver for patients in outpatient surgery and outpatient clinics, two support people for critically ill patients who may be at the end of life, and one “goodbye visit” from a service member being deployed.

Visitors must be age 14 or older and meet health screening criteria. The hospital system is encouraging everyone entering its facilities to be vaccinated against the virus, and all visitors must wear a mask at all times.

A spokeswoman said University Health clinic patients can attend appointments with one additional person. Visitor guidelines are posted here.

Also due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in San Antonio, one City Council member announced Tuesday his office staff will return to working remotely.

District 9 Councilman John Courage said the district’s field office at 16500 San Pedro Ave. and his office at City Hall downtown will be closed to the public and his seven staff members will work from home. Courage said in-person meetings will be postponed until the infection rate decreases.

“I think we’ve got some troublesome numbers and I wanted to make sure that my staff was aware of that and would act accordingly in protecting themselves,” Courage said. “Even though everybody on my staff has been vaccinated, I don’t think that that has given us any kind of level of security that it is impossible to get the virus and transmit it.”

City Council member John Courage (D9) and his team will return to working remotely amid rising COVID-19 cases.
City Council member John Courage (D9) and his team will return to working remotely amid rising coronavirus cases. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

At City Hall and in other city-owned facilities, staffers in many departments are still working “hybrid” schedules — both in-person and remote — and no plans have been made yet to change that protocol, said spokeswoman Laura Mayes. Unvaccinated city workers are encouraged to wear masks, she said.

No other council members have announced office closures.

The decision to close District 9 offices was not an easy one to make, Courage said in an announcement posted to Facebook. The staff had returned to working in the office about three weeks ago after more than a year of working remotely due to the pandemic, he said. The councilman only recently had begun to hold in-person meetings with constituents.

While he and staff will be available by phone and email and will meet with an individual as the need arises, the offices will be closed until infection rates improve and guidance from the scientific community determines it is safe to return, he said.

“That could be a few weeks or it could be longer,” he said. “I think we’re just going to have to see how this virus is going and how it’s affecting our community.”

This article has been updated to reflect University Health’s revised guidelines that clinic patients can have one person with them at their appointment.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.