Local leaders are concerned that, as a coronavirus surge hits various parts of the nation and state, San Antonio could be next.

On Thursday, Bexar County saw its largest case increase this month. With 224 new infections, the seven-day moving average increased from 126 to 134. The local COVID-19 patient tally rose above 200, though fewer hospital cases were critical.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, County Judge Nelson Wolff, and Sandra Guerra, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District deputy director, said they were bracing for the possibility of another surge in San Antonio and the broader South Texas region.

“We are anticipating another surge,” Nirenberg said. “I am concerned there is another surge, and so what we have to ask ourselves is when we saw the surge in June, what would we have done differently? In San Antonio, we have taken a number of steps now to ensure that we’re protected. No. 1, we have testing and tracing capacity at the volume that’s necessary to ensure that we’re able to track and isolate infections as quickly as possible.

“We also are not going to get rid of the mask mandate. One of the simple things that we’ve been able to do to control the infection is wearing masks. We’re going to keep doing that.”

The summer surge in San Antonio that left the Bexar County hospital system near the brink taught leadership about how to approach reopening business and public facilities methodically, Nirenberg said.

That’s why, as bars get set to reopen in Bexar County for the first time in months, they will do so while following a set of additional COVID-19 protocols. Such public health guidance includes barring seating in common areas, prohibiting congregating indoors, and ensuring ventilation systems are working properly. Any violation of these rules incurs a $1,000 fine, per an executive order signed by Wolff on Thursday.

Bars will be allowed to reopen in Bexar County starting at noon on Tuesday, according to the order.

Two more COVID-19-caused deaths were reported on Thursday, bringing the toll to 1,209 in Bexar County. The deceased were two men, one in his 60s and another in his 80s, who died at Methodist Hospital Medical Center and St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital, respectively.

Of the 203 COVID-19 patients in area hospitals, 76 are intensive care and 33 are on ventilators. The capacities for hospital beds and ventilators stand at 12 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.