Brooke Army Medical Center is now San Antonio Military Medical Center.
On Sunday officials announced the death of the first local resident suffering from COVID-19. She was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio reported its first death from coronavirus, according to a release from local health officials.

On Sunday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District confirmed that a woman in her 80s being treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center was the first person to die of the disease in Bexar County.

Across Texas, six people have died of the disease, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Sunday press conference. It was not immediately clear whether Abbott’s total includes the Bexar County woman.

The woman, a Bexar County resident who died Saturday, “had a history of underlying health issues,” City and County officials said in a joint Sunday news release.

“Today’s tragic development illustrates the importance of the aggressive steps we are taking to thwart the spread of [coronavirus],” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a prepared statement. “Stay home unless you must go out. Follow the health experts’ guidelines. We can all play a role in saving lives through social distancing and healthy behaviors. Together we will overcome this challenge.”

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bexar County has increased to 45, with six more confirmed since Saturday.

Updated surveillance data from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Sunday shows 26 travel-related cases, seven diagnosed in people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive, and 10 cases of community spread, meaning transmission could not be traced to a known exposure to the virus.

Of the 45 cases, two remain under investigation.

In 43 counties across Texas, 334 people have tested positive for coronavirus, Abbott said Sunday. That’s out of approximately 8,700 people who have been tested so far.

Local coronavirus testing and reporting has continued to evolve in the last several weeks as San Antonio works to address what City officials say is an “inevitable increase” in the number of positive tests.

Last week, Metro Health opened a new coronavirus testing site at Freeman Coliseum that has the capacity to administer up to 16 tests per hour.

The new site replaced the City-run drive-thru at the South Texas Medical Center that offered testing to health care workers, first responders, and seniors over age 60 who have a temperature of 99.6 degrees or higher. The new site expands testing availability to include VIA bus drivers and anyone pre-approved by a doctor.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes seem to be particularly susceptible to the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even before the expansion, Abbott last week said that Texas will soon have enough testing sites for 10,000 people to be tested for the novel virus weekly.

As testing capabilities increase throughout the state and nation, positive diagnoses will increase exponentially, Abbott said.

“People need to be prepared and not shocked that once widespread testing is implemented a lot more people are going to be testing positive,” he said.

Metro Health runs diagnostic tests for coronavirus for all public health departments in Region 8, which includes 28 counties throughout South Texas, including Comal, Guadalupe, Atascosa, and Gillespie.  

The total number of tests processed by Metro Health is disclosed on its surveillance page, which includes every test completed for the region, but the local health department reports positive test results for Bexar County only on its surveillance page.

All positive test results for non-Bexar County residents are reported by their respective county public health departments.

In addition to the positive cases found by Metro Health, the surveillance site reports positive test results from private labs, including Quest and LabCorp, which process coronavirus tests for health care providers throughout the state, not just in San Antonio.

These labs do not specify testing totals for Bexar County, making it difficult to glean just how many Bexar County residents they have tested. Metro Health said the department is working with private labs to “come to an agreement” on reporting standards that clear up the numbers.

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Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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