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Here’s your local coronavirus update for , .

Six more locals have died from COVID-19 complications, five of them from the San Antonio nursing home that was the source of an outbreak, said the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Tuesday. The death toll in Bexar County now stands at 18.

The countywide stay-home order is set to be extended until April 30, upon a Thursday vote by San Antonio City Council, and all residents age 5 or older are recommended to use a cloth mask or face covering when in public spaces where social distancing is difficult, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Monday press briefing.

Monday saw 46 more confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County, bringing the total to 456.

Community spread accounts for 139 of the confirmed cases, 115 are travel-related, 153 from close contact, and 49 cases are under investigation. Seventy-seven people have recovered from COVID-19.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District relaxed its testing criteria last week. People seeking a COVID-19 test in Bexar County no longer need a doctor’s note to be tested at a drive-up testing site at Freeman Coliseum, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger said Friday.

Here’s a look at the numbers as they’ve charted day by day. The area recorded its first positive case on March 13.

Tighter restrictions on business operations and residents’ movements were imposed March 24 to contain the spread of the virus.

Under the countywide “Stay Home, Work Safe” order, grocery stores and other essential businesses and public services will remain open, but residents are expected to stay home unless they work at or are visiting such establishments. The order is in place through April 9.

Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered schools to remain closed until May 4. One charter school network in San Antonio, IDEA Public Schools, announced Thursday its school buildings would remain closed, except for meals and child care, through the end of the school year.

In other news, a second detention deputy at the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has tested positive for coronavirus, causing a shift in personnel and an entire cadet class to be placed on leave. Read more here.

Whataburger has laid off employees across the 10 states it operates in response to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

Top reads

  • Rick Casey talks to San Antonio Independent School District board President Patti Radle about how the coronavirus shutdowns are affecting students and those in her Westside community who face challenges even at the best of times.
  • The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center will collect plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in order to study antibodies produced against the coronavirus. The antibodies may provide passive immunity to certain patients with severe forms of the illness.
  • The San Antonio Police Department received nearly 20 percent more calls reporting family or domestic violence from March 1 to April 4 than during the same time period last year. Police and social service providers are concerned that stay-home orders put victims of domestic violence at more risk with fewer opportunities to escape potentially dangerous situations.
  • The City’s network nearly 70 miles of linear creekway trails makes it easy to get outside but still maintain the proper distance of 6 feet from other trail-goers.

Here’s what else is happening

Whataburger layoffs

The San Antonio-based fast-food chain announced it has laid off and furloughed an undisclosed number of its employees across all 10 states in which it operates. Asked to confirm the reports of layoffs, Whataburger sent the following statement:

Like many restaurants, retailers, and hospitality businesses, Whataburger has been impacted by COVID– 19 through the travel restrictions, curfews, and lockdowns issued to help fight the pandemic. We’ve closed our dining rooms and are serving only by drive-thru and curbside pickup.

We are working tirelessly to remain agile and responsive with a focused dedication to our restaurants. And we continue to be open for the communities we serve. However, faced with the uncertainty of this national health crisis, we have implemented a workforce reduction, comprised of layoffs and furloughs. This reduction impacts our corporate headquarters and field support teams across our 10 states.

“Like many companies, Whataburger is managing the best it can through this global pandemic,” said Ed Nelson, president of Whataburger. “We call our employees Family Members, and we have built a very caring culture here – so the decision was not easy. It is, however, essential to streamline in a way that best positions us to make it through this current crisis and help ensure long-term success for our restaurants and brand.”

Affected employees are receiving personalized packages that include some combination of compensation, medical benefits and transition assistance. They also will be able to file for unemployment. 

“I am incredibly appreciative for all the work our Family Members have done supporting this brand,” Nelson said. “These next few months will be challenging. But I believe this crisis will pass, and I look forward to the days when our communities can gather in our dining rooms again and share their special occasions with Whataburger.”

Whataburger statement

Second sheriff’s deputy contracts COVID-19

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office on Monday announced its second case of COVID-19 among its detention deputies. The deputy graduated this year from the sheriff’s office’s academy. The deputy, along with all other cadets from that graduating class, have been placed on leave. Last week, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office reported the jail’s first case of coronavirus in a detention officer that oversaw inmates.

Housing assistance

The San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation, which typically finds affordable housing projects, will contribute up to $1 million to the City’s risk mitigation fund to help residents pay rent and mortgages. The nonprofit’s board voted unanimously to allocate $500,000 immediately and another $500,000 when needed.

So far the city has identified a total of $16 million – in its annual budget, from federal programs, and now the trust – to bolster housing assistance. City officials expect the need to be much higher than that.

The trust’s participation in this type of work is significant, neighborhood and housing services Director Veronica Soto said, because the nonprofit can cut checks to landlords and lien holders more quickly and can be more flexible with who qualifies for it than other public entities.

Pre-K 4 SA vote

A May vote whether to sustain the early childhood education program’s funding for eight more years is likely to be postponed until November. The Pre-K 4 SA board voted March 26 to recommend moving an election slated for May 2 to Election Day, Nov. 3. San Antonio City Council will take a vote on the recommendation on Thursday, April 9.

The prekindergarten program for San Antonio 4-year-olds is funded through the 2020-21 school year.

Travelers to Texas ordered to self-quarantine

Gov. Greg Abbott on March 26 signed an executive order calling for visitors flying in from New Orleans and the New York metropolitan area to self-quarantine for 14 days during the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott later expanded the order to include anyone driving into Texas from Louisiana and passengers on flights from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, all of California, and Washington state

VIA suspends fares

VIA Metropolitan Transit is allowing passengers to ride free of charge on all routes through April 30, switching to Saturday schedules beginning Monday, April 6.

The move to stop accepting fares also applies to VIA’s service for disabled riders, VIAtrans, and its on-demand service.

Federal courthouse proceedings

The federal courthouse in San Antonio has put civil and criminal jury trials on hold until at least May 1. Judges can use telephone or videoconference technology for things such as initial appearances and detention hearings.

May 26 primary runoff delayed

The May 26 primary election runoffs will be delayed until July 14 in response to the growing outbreak of the new coronavirus in Texas under an order signed March 20 by Abbott, the Texas Tribune reported.

The elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.

The governor issued an earlier proclamation to allow municipalities to delay local elections scheduled for May 2 until November. Individual municipalities will still have to act to postpone their elections, and it was unknown whether several San Antonio-area school board elections scheduled for that date would be postponed.

School closings

Public school districts announced extended closures until May 4, with plans for online learning moving forward.

Most of Bexar County’s school districts notified families of the additional weeks students will remain out of school. Superintendents plan to evaluate school openings and closures in two-week chunks, said Roland Toscano, superintendent of East Central Independent School District.

Where to order food in the shutdown

As dining areas and bars have shuttered amid the local lockdown, many have kept in business by quickly pivoting to feed hungry mouths throughout the area. Here’s where you can still order takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup – as well as locales that have converted into markets for produce and other goods.

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Rivard Report Staff

Rivard Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the Rivard Report staff.