Bexar County now has 1,195 cases of the novel coronavirus, an increase of 28 positive test results, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Friday. There were no new deaths to report. 

Though the daily increase of overall Bexar County coronavirus cases shrank Friday, positive cases at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center jumped by 21, the largest number reported at the facility so far. There are now 57 inmates at the jail who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. Four additional University Health System employees assigned to the jail have also tested positive.

The 21 inmates who most recently tested positive were asymptomatic, the sheriff’s office said Friday. They were tested after several inmates from the same living unit tested positive. Six other inmates from the same unit are waiting for test results and have been relocated for medical observation.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the county and sheriff’s office is working on a contingency plan in case of further spread at the jail, as well as aiming to test the entire jail population for coronavirus in the near future.

“I gotta remind you, there’s … over 3,000 [people] in the jail,” Wolff said. “And the jail was not built for something like this. So it’s a challenge.”

Local officials continue to monitor other communal settings in which the new coronavirus could spread, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. When six members of Fire Station 14 tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 53 fire station members had to be quarantined, Hood said.

“Thankfully, none of them are showing signs of symptoms at this time,” Hood said. “It would make no sense for us to open that fire station up and bring fresh firefighters in there. So what we’re doing is waiting for the 14 days to finish the quarantine, then we’ll move those firefighters … back in.” 

The fire station’s resources – including its ambulance and platform truck – have been redeployed to another nearby station, Hood said.

A total of six people are being isolated at the River City Care Center, the designated central facility housing nursing home residents in the area who have tested positive for the virus, Hood said, while another patient will be moved in soon. The nursing home has the capacity to house more than 90 residents, and is still the only nursing home in the San Antonio region accepting positive coronavirus patients from other nursing facilities after Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare backed out.

“River City is the safest nursing home in the city,” Hood said. “It’s 0.5 miles away from my largest fire station. … Also, there’s a control order to where public health can go in and inspect them at any time.”

Meanwhile, San Antonio is one of the first Texas cities to receive a decontaminating system from the State of Texas to properly clean N95 masks for reuse, Hood said. The system, from science and technology company Battelle, is being funded by the State and should be operational by Monday.

“This will allow us to [decontaminate] 80,000 N95 masks a day,” he said. “At this time, we will be decontaminating N95 masks from hospitals, pre-hospital responders, nursing homes, and turning those things back over. If you remember a month ago, we were scrambling for PPE equipment – we’re going to have this system that’s going to be able to recycle our N95 masks. We’re really happy about that.”

The system will be set up at the Freeman Coliseum, where the drive-up testing site and overflow hospital are located.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.