The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms dipped below 1,000 for the first time since June, a welcome sign despite the hospital system remaining under severe stress, San Antonio officials said at a Thursday briefing. 

But while the decline is “a good start,” said San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Medical Director Junda Woo, people need to keep in mind that hospitals have had “people stuffed into every nook and cranny” to treat the increasing number of COVID-19 patients. 

“Some of that is still happening,” Woo said. “That’s the reason that the message is ‘we are not there yet’ and to keep doing everything” possible to keep the numbers down. 

New coronavirus cases jumped by 1,323, bringing the total above the 40,000 mark for the first time, to 40,253, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. Of those hospitalized, 380 are in intensive care, and 250 are on ventilators. 

With the number of people in hospitals down to 965, ventilators have been freed up for use, with 54 percent currently available to area hospitals. The percentage of hospital beds available also increased to 13 percent.

With five additional deaths, the toll is now at 347.

While hospital numbers are improving, the overall increase in cases Thursday affected the seven-day rolling average, Nirenberg said, bringing it up to 803, which means the next few weeks are critical for the community as schools work toward resuming in-person classes on Sept. 7.

Ages and ethnic backgrounds of deceased
  • 2 Hispanic females in their 60s and 70s
  • 1 Black female in her 90s
  • 1 Hispanic male in his 60s
  • 1 male, unknown ethnicity, in his 70s

A virtual town hall meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 5 will discuss safety measures and concerns related to school openings and will feature live audience polling that will guide local decision-making. It can be accessed via cable and antenna, in addition to the City’s online channel TVSA.

Health officials will use the town hall to explain the metrics being used to tie school operating levels to how much infection is in the community, Woo said. Those factors include the local doubling rate, doubling time, and the 14-day rate of decline. 

“We are always looking at things with a two-week delay because” that is the virus incubation period, Woo said. She added that the delay also is a reminder to not go to mass gatherings or hang out with people outside your household because “that can set us back early in the school year.”

Woo said the month of July has been “the worst we have seen so far,” with the total number of coronavirus cases more than tripling since June 30, when Bexar County ended the month with 12,065 cases.

San Antonio and Bexar County are “implementing every tool that the state authorized for us to use against this virus” to reduce local numbers, Nirenberg said. 

“This is not an easy fight, and it’s not going to be a quick remedy to the situation,” Nirenberg said. “We all have to do our part collectively.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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