How will San Antonio observe Halloween during the pandemic? Officials say it's still too early to issue guidance.
How will San Antonio observe Halloween during the pandemic? Officials say it's still too early to issue guidance. Credit: Michael Cirlos for the San Antonio Report

Is Halloween yet another celebration doomed for cancellation? The answer will likely depend on how well San Antonians observed pandemic practices during Labor Day weekend, officials said Wednesday.

Asked during a Wednesday briefing whether the City would cancel any Halloween festivities because of the threat of transmission, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said it is still too early to tell what measures should be in place. Public health officials would want to know the impact of Labor Day weekend activities before deciding on any protective measures in late October. Local transmission spiked after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends earlier this year.

“I think we’re all interested in ensuring that there’s not a Labor Day spike before we get too far down the road,” he said.

San Antonio officials are hoping most students can safely return to campuses in the next few weeks, and the broader San Antonio community could begin holding in-person events again if the coronavirus positivity rate dips below the 5 percent threshold.

“A lot of organizations and businesses have incorporated the practices, [personal protective equipment], and modification of their operations to be able to conduct them safely,” Nirenberg said. “We [would be] able to accommodate that with the level of infection going on.”

The percentage of Bexar County residents testing positive for the coronavirus declined to 6.7 percent on Tuesday, nearing a hoped-for 5 percent mark. The infection rate is one of the key indicators public health officials are monitoring and informs the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most concrete example of the positivity rate’s impact on local policy and public health guidance is the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s school risk level assessment. Because the positivity rate remains above the 5 percent mark, Metro Health has categorized the coronavirus risk level in schools as moderate.

This means in-person schooling should be prioritized for at-risk students, those with special needs, and those who lack resources such as a home internet connection. Instruction should be limited to six-student pods, and classroom capacity should not exceed 25 percent, according to the guidance.

On Wednesday, officials reported 151 new coronavirus cases, bringing the overall caseload to 47,887. Area hospitals are treating 298 COVID-19 patients, the first time the patient count has dipped below 300 in months. Many of the local hospital cases are serious, however, as 130 patients are in intensive care, and 84 are on ventilators.

Two additional deaths on Wednesday brought the toll to 981, and Metro Health continues to investigate more than 100 death certificates submitted to the State. Meanwhile, the local death toll is approaching 1,200, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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