Local officials are asking Gov. Greg Abbott to clarify whether the local health directive requiring schools to delay on-campus instruction until after Sept. 7 is enforceable following conflicting information from the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Ken Paxton issued nonbinding guidance Tuesday morning that stated local health authorities don’t have the power to levy blanket closure orders, which Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said “caused great confusion during an already stressful time,” according to a letter the elected leaders sent to Abbott on Wednesday.

Wolff said that while no school districts based in Bexar County were discussing defying the local order issued July 18, school districts need clarity so that they can prepare as coronavirus cases continue to rise, especially among residents age 18 and younger. 

Nirenberg said no matter what happens in the political realm regarding back-to-school mandates, the directive from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will remain unchanged because “it is coming from the perspective of science and the health and safety of our community.

Ages and ethnic backgrounds of deceased

2 Hispanic men in their 30s and 50s

1 white man in his 60s

3 women of unknown ethnicity in their 40s, 70s, and 80s

1 man of unknown ethnicity in his 80s

“This is still a very dangerous period,” Nirenberg said, adding that the almost 18 percent positivity rate among people being tested for the virus “means there’s substantial uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19.”

The number of new coronavirus cases in Bexar County is barreling toward 40,000 with 946 cases reported on Wednesday, well above the seven-day average of 768. 

Of the 38,930 positive cases since the start of the pandemic, more than 76 percent (26,757) have recovered, according to Metro Health data. 

While the hospital system continues to be under stress, Nirenberg said the hospitalization rate continues to go down, with 1,007 people being treated for COVID-19 at area hospitals. Of those, 389 are being treated in intensive care, and 269 are on ventilators. 

Available hospital beds for COVID-19 patients remain at 12 percent, and 40 percent of ventilators are available. 

Despite improving hospitalization rates, officials reported seven more deaths, bringing the toll to 342. 

“While we obviously want to see those [numbers] come down,” it’s going to take some time, Nirenberg said. “So we are continuing to ask you to do your part, wear your mask, physical distancing – all the things that we need to do to keep our hospital numbers down.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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