Officials confirmed a 26-person increase in the number of local coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the total to 410.

One additional death was reported, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions who was a resident at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where 67 of the facility’s 84 residents and eight employees tested positive for coronavirus. The total number of local deaths is now 12, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Sunday media briefing.  

Of those who tested positive, 127 were cases of community transmission, “which is significant because it’s the result of close contact,” Nirenberg said. “It tells us that we are in a period that is going to be difficult for us as we move forward with stay-at-home orders.”

The “Stay Home, Work Safe” order in effect since March 24 requires people in Bexar County to stay home and leave only to perform activities related to health and safety and to obtain necessities. It prohibits nonessential businesses from operating.

On Friday the order was updated to address the nursing home outbreak, which local officials said is the largest spread of the novel coronavirus at a Texas long-term care facility, so that nursing home employees in San Antonio can no longer work in more than one such facility at a time.

The update also mandated closure of all community and school playgrounds, tennis courts, golf courses, skate plazas, splash pads, and all other “recreational areas where social distancing and sanitizing requirements are difficult or impossible to meet.”

“The next few weeks are going to make a difference, and people need to continue to buckle down and stay the course,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said at the briefing. “We have plenty of hospital beds available right now… but if a spike comes we could [stress out the hospital system.]”

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Friday announced it amended its testing criteria to make testing more accessible to the community by no longer requiring a physician’s referral. Instead, those experiencing symptoms of the virus can complete a self-screening to determine whether testing is necessary.

Nirenberg said 450 calls were made to the City’s COVID-19 hotline by people completing the self-screening and being referred for testing based on symptoms. Out of those calls, 360 appointments were made.

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Officials say that as testing ramps up locally, the community needs to prepare for the number of people testing positive to continue to go up.

“We are still continuing to do better than any other large metro area in Texas,” Wolff said. “Everyone needs to keep up the hard work they are doing. It is estimated that we are saving 2,500 lives and [will have] 26,000 less hospital visits if we keep this up through Easter.”

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In addition to an increase in testing, University Health System secured an additional 50 ventilators to use on coronavirus patients.

Bexar County has nearly 700 ventilators available for use on a given day, according to Eric Epley, executive director of the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, a network of hospitals and first responders across 22 counties that maintains the regional trauma and emergency health care system.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the Rivard Report.