It’s hard to believe how much transpires in the space of a single week in a city gripped by the coronavirus outbreak.

The San Antonio Food Bank was overwhelmed by thousands of families lined up in traffic for miles seeking food assistance. Hundreds were furloughed at City Hall as officials turned their attention to converting a 300-room downtown hotel into an emergency shelter for the elderly homeless. Santikos announced its entire workforce was furloughed. Hundreds more Toyota workers were laid off. Thousands of the hospitality and service industry’s hourly wage workers remained out of work.

Domestic violence calls to San Antonio police rose 20 percent versus this same time period last year.

Easter Week and Passover services went online as churches and synagogues remained closed. Vulnerable community arts organizations lost essential public funding as City and County officials braced for budget shortfalls in the tens of millions of dollars and growing. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, both appearing nightly in live-streamed media briefings, took steps to change local government processes.

City Council pushed the Pre-K 4 SA sales tax renewal vote to November, as did various school districts with school board elections. The Alamo Colleges, fearful voters will face a seemingly endless ballot, asked Gov. Greg Abbott to designate a second November date for its trustee elections. KIPP became the second public charter, after IDEA Public Schools, to announce there will be no return to classes this academic year.

As tests for the coronavirus slowly become more available locally, positive cases rose to 723 and six more nursing home residents died last week, bringing COVID-19-related deaths to 27 in San Antonio. Half of those fatalities occurred at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. A countywide stay-home order was extended Thursday to April 30 and is likely now to continue into May. Health experts are calling on everyone to wear a protective face mask when venturing into public spaces to shop for groceries, medicine, or other essential needs.

The unprecedented impact of the pandemic on San Antonio’s public life and economy is coming into sharper focus with each passing week. The picture is not good. It’s certainly not the grim reality being experienced in New York and the nation’s other hot spots, but in a city ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau with the highest rate of poverty of all major metro areas, San Antonians are feeling the pain.

Public health experts are unified in their belief that extreme social distancing is the only way right now to flatten the curve of the outbreak and bring the virus under control. Until then, there can be no return to life and business as usual. City officials continue to order the closure of nonessential businesses failing to comply with the Stay Home, Work Safe emergency order.

For anyone unfamiliar with the exact parameters of the City/County emergency orders, read FAQs About Coronavirus in San Antonio: What You Need to Know.

Up-to-date local numbers are unavailable, but economists now predict national unemployment could soar to 25 percent, with more than 16 million claims filed in the last three weeks alone. It could take years, many estimate, for the economy to fully recover. Idled workers can click here to access available resources.

Some economists say the federal government’s efforts to intervene and limit the economic damage may be too little, too late. The $2 trillion stimulus bill passed only two weeks ago is now seen by both Republicans and Democrats as inadequate, though the two parties are divided on the additional funding needed.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and designated community banks, meanwhile, are struggling to process the tsunami of applications filed for emergency loans to keep small businesses afloat and payrolls intact. More than 550,000 loan applications worth $141 billion have been approved, according to the SBA, but the loans have not yet been funded. There is no established system for pushing stimulus dollars to those who need them most, and the result is weeks passing by without approved aid reaching its intended beneficiaries.

Borrowers can download the application form here to seek a loan, many of which will be forgivable if payrolls are kept intact, according to SBA guidelines.

More online gatherings are being organized by businesses, nonprofits, arts organizations, religious congregations, and others as people realize there will be no quick return to normal.

A sign at Northwood Presbyterian Church urges neighbors to worship on Facebook for Easter. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

On Friday, Arts & Culture Reporter Nicholas Frank went online with the first edition of the Quarantine Book Club, featuring an interview with novelist and scholar Jennifer Davidson, who discovered her great-grandmother Margaret Brown Kilik’s long-lost manuscript for a World War II-era novel about life for a young adult woman in San Antonio. The novel, The Duchess of Angus, was published last month by Trinity University Press.

Artists and arts organizations across the city also went online to stay relevant with poets, classical musicians, theatrical groups, and many others offering a welcome alternative to the overwhelming drone of COVID-19 news.

Local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops continued to offer to-go, delivery, and even grocery services as they struggle to serve customers and hang on. A Rivard Report list of locally owned venues still open for such orders can be found here.

Local companies continued to respond philanthropically. While USAA cut premiums for its auto insurance customers, no major employer has adapted more than H-E-B, which continues to serve as a well-stocked lifeline for San Antonio and Texas residents venturing out for often-scarce necessities. In-store, shopping carts are sanitized before each use, and entryways are staffed to guard against overcrowding and panic buying. Many checkout counters now feature protective screens separating customers and workers, while “partners” are deployed to the busiest aisles stocked with essentials such as toilet paper and paper towels to keep calm and order. Last week, the company’s Favor delivery service doubled its service area statewide to better serve the elderly and other shut-in residents.

The San Antonio Area Foundation announced $1.1 million in grants to 36 area nonprofits serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak, drawing down the $3.9 million emergency fund it established with United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County last month. Calls went out seeking new donations to replenish the fund.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.