Twenty percent of patient admissions at hospitals throughout Bexar County are people who tested positive for COVID-19, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Friday, as the hospital system continues to be under significant stress. 

City and County officials continued the clampdown Friday on reopened facilities in light of Gov. Greg Abbott’s move the same day to shut down bars and cap restaurant capacity at 50 percent.

Nirenberg said that in addition to Abbott’s orders, local officials are prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in parks or plazas, and they are postponing the reopening of pools and splash pads, which were set to reopen on July 3.

“We want to make sure that we can recover from this virus and we still don’t know when it’s going to end,” Nirenberg said. “If we don’t get a handle now I shudder to think what is going to happen in the fall.”

The measures come after a continued surge in COVID-19 patients being treated at area hospitals. On Friday, 699 coronavirus-positive residents were receiving treatment in local hospitals.

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“That is an alarming jump from just two weeks ago,” when there were 138 COVID-19 patients in local hospital beds, Nirenberg said.

Of the 699 patients, 221 are in intensive care (up 21 from Thursday), and 117 are on ventilators (up 23). 

One new death was reported, and 405 more people tested positive, bringing the total caseload to 8,857. The death toll in Bexar County stands at 105.

The jump in cases comes as the San Antonio area prepares to roll back the loosened restrictions on businesses per orders from Abbott, who ordered bars to close at noon beginning Friday, and banned outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people. Starting Monday, restaurant capacity will be capped at 50 percent, down from 75 percent. 

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, “targeting some of the high-risk businesses,” including bars and restaurants, is a step in the right direction, and a clear sign that Abbott “is trying to take some major steps” in response to Texas being declared a COVID-19 hotspot. 

On Wednesday, state governors from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut imposed travel restrictions on visitors from Texas and mandated all travelers self-quarantine for 14 days as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations hit record highs in Texas, surpassing 5,000 new cases in a single day Tuesday. 

As local officials move forward in what they call a “good bipartisan effort” to stop the spread of the virus, they will soon be doing so without Dawn Emerick, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District director, who submitted a resignation letter Thursday evening indicating her last day would be July 3. 

Emerick, whose first day on the job was Jan. 27, had been Metro Health director for less than two weeks when evacuees from the coronavirus-stricken region of Wuhan, China, arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Nirenberg said that regardless of the shake-up in staff, the City “is not going to miss a beat” when it comes to its efforts in containing the spread of the virus. Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, who was Metro Health director before being promoted, will be interim director until a replacement is found. 

“This is a crucible every city in the country is going through, and it’s high-stress for everyone,” Nirenberg said. “It’s always a surprise when anyone steps away, but we want to continue the great teamwork we have.” 

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

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