The local spread of coronavirus is at a slow but steady decline, officials said Wednesday.

Bexar County’s weekly novel coronavirus positivity rate on Wednesday stood at 15 percent, meaning one in roughly seven tests turned up positive. That’s roughly 3 percentage points lower than the previous week. The number of new cases rose by 340, bringing the total caseload to 41,614.

But when it comes to fully reopening schools and businesses the positivity rate needs to be closer to 5 percent, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Wednesday briefing. 

“[We are] still quite a ways off from where we need to be,” Nirenberg said, but Bexar County can prevent another spike in positives by continuing to wear masks and social distancing. 

The seven-day average of local coronavirus cases fell to 472, a decrease of 41 percent over the same period, according to data from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

Fourteen new deaths were reported on Wednesday among people between the ages of 30 to 89, bringing the toll to 394. 

Nirenberg said that while hospital numbers have been improving, the number of patients being treated in intensive care rose by nine people to 345, and the number of people on ventilators rose by four, for a total of 238. 

Forty-nine percent of ventilators are currently available for use, along with 13 percent of hospital beds, and the hospital system remains under severe stress. 

Ages and ethnicities of deceased

7 Hispanic men between the ages of 30 and 89

2 white men in their 70s and 80s

1 Black man in his 50s

4 Hispanic women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s

In addition to the stress on the hospital system, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that the Bexar County Adult Detention Center is also experiencing COVID-19-related stress, with 129 inmates testing positive. 

Wolff described the increase in positives as “very frustrating,” and relevant to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice leaving inmates waiting on a transfer to state facilities at facilities in Bexar County for longer than they should have been.

More than 60 jail guards and non-officer employees have tested positive for COVID-19, Wolff said, which costs taxpayers at least $50,000 a day toward paid sick leave and relevant treatment, for which many inmates are kept in isolation.

“When you’re trying to spread [inmates] out like we have to spread them out, we’re running out of actual space and we’re running out of the ability to have enough people on the job to do it,” Wolff said. “We had to pay double overtime to be able to get it going. If the state doesn’t respond to this, it’s going to continue to get worse.” 

Local officials also are highlighting the mental health resources available amid the pandemic. If anyone is experiencing mental health concerns or is having a difficult time managing stress or anxiety levels, the statewide 24/7 mental health line run by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is available to any Texas resident, Nirenberg said. 

“Even if your family is not one of those that have suffered the devastating impacts of COVID-19, staying home and physical distancing [does have] an impact on our mental health,” he said. “So, if you need help, please know that you’re not alone.”

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