Bexar County officials on Thursday announced 70 more residents tested positive for coronavirus, including 45 more residents of the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that has become a virus hotspot.

The nursing home reported 14 cases on Wednesday, which included eight residents, one of whom died, and six staff members. In total, Bexar County’s infected cases reached 299. No deaths were reported Thursday.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that for the first time since numbers of positive tests have been reported, community transmission, which means it spread from person to person with no known previous exposure to the virus, has outweighed travel-related cases.

“That’s significant,” Nirenberg said. “We are in a period of community spread that you can’t ignore. We should assume the virus is in every corner of the city whether we have data to prove it or not.”

Nirenberg said of those tests administered to people at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 11 tests came back negative for coronavirus, and two tests were inconclusive. The nursing home numbers were not initially disclosed in Thursday’s overall count because they were received after the release.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said people who are concerned about family members at nursing homes where people test positive can take their family members home if they have not tested positive themselves.

“But those families have to be able to handle it” if the person does end up testing positive upon their return home, Wolff said. “We understand that people are worried, but [where this outbreak happened] wasn’t a good nursing home,” which isn’t true for all.

An 11-page report on the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center by the Department of Health and Human Services in late October 2019 detailed various violations, including a lack of proper sanitary measures, food safety issues, mechanical and electrical failures, pest control issues, and an overall lack of professional standards and adequate training.

Wolff said local officials have started looking into 48 other nursing homes where similar violations have taken place.

Thursday morning started with a City Council-led moment of silence. Nirenberg asked San Antonio residents to take a moment to keep people thinking about how many people are being impacted by the rapidly spreading disease and the work people are putting in to minimize its impact locally.

“When we see first responders and health care workers among those being infected, it’s important for us to pause and recognize that,” Nirenberg said. “This is a virus that is indiscriminately infecting people of every demographic and ability and level of health.”

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Among those infected include a detention officer who oversaw inmates at the Bexar County Jail and a San Antonio Police Department officer who was in contact with 39 residents during traffic stops or accidents.

In addition to the growing number of people infected, the number of people being impacted financially continues to increase dramatically.

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The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) reported Thursday that 275,597 out-of-work Texans filed for unemployment benefits in the past week, and the number of calls to the agency related to the coronavirus crisis rose into the millions.

Area schools have started issuing updates to distance learning plans, with IDEA Public Schools becoming the first major San Antonio school district to close campuses through the end of the school year.

“We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the summer and hope to reopen our school buildings in August,” the charter network said in a statement.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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