Bexar County ended the month of June by logging yet another one-day record in positive coronavirus cases Tuesday with 1,268 as local officials updated their emergency health order to require additional screenings for COVID-19 symptoms.

Local officials called the increase “a very serious situation,” warning that hospital capacity could run out “within the next week or two if we keep going like this.” Bexar County reported 9,235 positive cases in June, more than three-fourths of its total caseload of 12,065 since the pandemic began.

Tuesday’s number of new cases eclipsed the previous one-day high of 795 cases reported Saturday.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult time,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

A 10 percent jump in hospitalizations brought the total number of patients being treated at area hospitals to 966, up 85 from Monday. Of those, 288 are in intensive care units, and 158 are on ventilators. 

As the case numbers continue to surge, it becomes increasingly difficult for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to complete contact tracing, said Colleen Bridger, the assistant city manager who is serving as interim director of Metro Health. In light of the challenges of trying to trace where people testing positive have been and who they might have exposed to the virus, the health department is asking anyone who tested positive to warn anyone “you were in close contact with two days before you started showing symptoms.”

“Contact tracing is like digging a fire line around the fire to slow the spread,” she said. “Each new case of COVID-19 is a hotspot and contact tracing helps us prevent new hotspots from becoming bigger fires.”

Bridger said that the increase in people testing positive in Bexar County cannot be attributed to an increase in testing availability or a backlog in tests being run at area labs. It’s a result of more people who have symptoms seeking testing and then testing positive, she said.

“These are not mysterious transmissions occurring without the patient knowing who or how they contracted the virus,” Bridger said. “The disease is spreading because people with the virus are not isolating themselves and other people are coming in close contact with them.”

Meanwhile, Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff are awaiting a response from Gov. Greg Abbott to their letter requesting that he roll back business reopenings and allow Bexar County to reinstate stay-at-home orders if the spike in cases and stress on the hospital system continues. 

On Tuesday, they announced an updated emergency order that requires businesses to ask customers and employees screening questions about any coronavirus symptoms they may have and also check the temperatures of everyone entering the business.

Nirenberg said that while “everyone wants to avoid a situation in which we would have to lock down again,” the rise in cases is troubling.

“A second lockdown would be even more devastating than the first, but we are taking the approach that we need to ensure health and safety first,” Nirenberg said. “That’s why we are being so forceful about the physical distancing, mask wearing, hygiene protocols, and we are putting our community on alert about it.”

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Wolff said the governor had solicited feedback from cities and municipalities about actions they think he should take to stop the statewide surge in cases.

“He has some hard decisions to make about what he will do,” and he could either make decisions for the entire state or leave some of the decisions up to local leaders, Wolff said.

Texas reported more than 6,900 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a record daily increase that brings the state’s total to nearly 160,000 cases, according to Department of State Health Services (DSHS)

DSHS also reported that 6,533 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, another record.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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