March 20-April 6: San Antonio Faces 450+ COVID-19 Cases, 11 Deaths
This Post is Archived: Find the newest information at TPR's COVID-19 live blog, link below.
Find the newest information at TPR's live blog.
Texas Public Radio is updating the latest information on COVID-19 in the San Antonio area, along with how local businesses are adjusting, how you can help those in need and what you can do to stay entertained at home.
Other NPR stations that are part of The Texas Newsroom are also live-blogging, including Houston Public Media, KERA in Dallas and KUT in Austin. The statewide coronavirus hotline is 2-1-1, and San Antonio's Metro Health hotline is 210-207-5779.
Here's what we know...
Monday, April 6
6:45 p.m. — 456 confirmed cases / 12 deaths / 77 people recovered
The San Antonio Metro Health Department reported 46 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County on Monday.
The death toll remained the same at 12.
The number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 456. Of those cases, 77 have now completely recovered.
Community spread and close contact cases are by far the lead causes of local cases.
Check out the latest numbers -- tests administered, cases broken down by zip code, recoveries, deaths -- and much more data, plus advice on how to keep yourself safe, at the Metro Health website.
6:20 p.m. — Metro Health advises public to cover mouths in public
6:15 p.m. — Watch the daily briefing here
5:10 p.m. — Texas National Guard deploys to help response
Over 500 Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen have deployed to support the COVID-19 response in Texas.
Adjutant General Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department said Gov. Abbott gave them three missions.
"One of those is to assist communities with the drive through testing," she explained. "Also assist with making bed capacity where needed. And then the last one is also be sure that commodities that need to be sent across the state, such as PPE, are also delivered."
Norris said the Guard also identified locations where they’ll build temporary COVID-19 field hospitals. Sites in Austin, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley have been selected.
Norris added that the new mission would not interfere with Guard operations along the southwest border.
"So those soldiers and airmen will continue to do the job that they're assigned as long as needed," she said. "Also, they've been given some additional protective equipment so they can stay safe and healthy and continue the job in the southwest border."
As of early March, about 1,700 National Guard troops were stationed along the Texas-Mexico border. It was unclear how many of those were from Texas versus other states.
4 p.m. — Whataburger announces layoffs
San Antonio-based Whataburger has implemented a workforce reduction, comprised of layoffs and furloughs.
Company officials say the cuts will be across the board, from corporate headquarters to field support teams across our 10 states.
The exact number of job cuts was not disclosed.
The fast industry has lost business as many people stay home and practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
“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.”
The company reports 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.
Sunday, April 5
7:15 p.m. — Update on testing centers
Since officials with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County lifted the order that required a doctor's referral to get tested for COVID-19, there has been an increase in testing at the pre-approved testing site at Freeman Coliseum.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said people can also be tested at all 19 Texas Med Clinics, as well as Centromed Clinics and CommuniCare Health Centers.
County Judge Nelson Wolff said another lab will soon be operational.
"We should have CBL Lab, a local lab, up and going to do the testing, rather than using the federal one that takes four or five days. They should be able to turn around the test within 48 hours. So, you're going to be able to get your test results much faster," he said.
6:45 p.m. — 410 cases confirmed in San Antonio
Tonight’s data: 4/5/2020
There are now more than 400 cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County. We are now at 12 deaths.
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) April 6, 2020
Metro Health officials report the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bexar County stands at 410. One new death was reported, raising Bexar County’s death toll to 12.
The latest death was a man in his 60s with underlying health issues and staying at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Of the 410 positive cases, 67 people have completely recovered.
Community spread cases and close contact cases are the lead causes of the illness.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says the apex for COVID-19 in Bexar County is likely to be in May if strict social distancing continues.
County Judge Nelson Wolff says one expert told him 2,500 lives could be saved by Easter if local residents strictly follow stay at home orders.
Saturday, April 4
6:20 p.m. — 384 cases / 11 deaths / 47 recoveries
Breaking: The latest numbers for COVID-19 in Bexar County are as follows:— Joey Palacios 😷 (@Joeycules) April 4, 2020
384 total cases; up from 343 yesterday
117 are Community spread
80 in hospital
43 in ICU
34 on ventilators
11 total deaths; up from 9 yesterday
47 recoveries. Unchanged. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/Se0PZ5B3tI
5:30 p.m. — Border crossings change hours of operation
International bridges between Brownsville and Del Rio will see temporary changes to their hours of operation.
The Customs and Border Protection Laredo Field Office has seen a significant decrease in crossings because of the closure of the border to non-essential traffic.
CBP says the change in operational hours will allow officials to observe necessary safety requirements.
Eight crossings will be affected, including those in Eagle Pass, Rio Grande City, and Donna. The changes go into effect Monday April 6th.
CBP officials said these will be the hours of operation for processing of northbound passenger vehicle traffic:
- Eagle Pass International Bridge I: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Falcon Dam International Bridge: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (since April 2)
- Rio Grande City International Bridge: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Learn more about how the business community has adjusted to the coronavirus outbreak here.
5 p.m. — SA native singer of "Sailing" tests positive
San Antonio native Christopher Cross confirmed Friday on Facebook that he has COVID-19.
The "Sailing" singer says he is recovering at home from "possibly the worst illness I've ever had."
The San Antonio Express-News reports Cross attended Alamo Heights High School. He performed with the San Antonio Symphony in 2017. Cross lives in Austin.
4:30 p.m. — Lucky the elephant getting a virtual bday party
The San Antonio Zoo holds a virtual 60th birthday celebration for Lucky, the Asian elephant.
The celebration begins Sunday at 11 a.m. on the zoo's Facebook page. The animal care team will host a "Pawsitive" chat at 11, and then will feature the zoo's "Golden Girls," Lucky, Nichole and Karen, enjoying their favorite fruits and vegetables.
The average life span of an Asian elephant in the wild is 47. Lucky is one of the oldest Asian elephants in the U.S.
4 p.m. — Businesses seeking financial aid endure a byzantine process
The federal government has rushed for weeks to address the debilitating downturn caused by COVID-19.
Along the way, small businesses seeking that help have received bad information from both local and federal officials, seen the target move on loan programs and spent a lot of time on the phone.
TPR's Paul Flahive spoke with the owners of Braustin Homes, Redland Cigar Club and Alamo Kitchens and illustrated the bureaucratic challenges they faced, including jammed phone lines, system crashes and unclear guidance. Read his report here.
Learn more about how the business community has adjusted to the coronavirus outbreak here.
2:35 p.m. — H-E-B employee at Bandera/1604 store tests positive
H-E-B reported on Saturday that one of its employees at the store at Bandera and 1604 has tested positive for COVID-19.
The statement said the employee was last in the store on Friday, March 27.
"All directly affected Partners at the location have been notified," the statement added, "and the store has been deep cleaned and sanitized multiple times since then and we continue to enforce proper social distancing practices."
The news came soon after the grocery chain announced it was providing employees masks and gloves for use at work. The gear will also be provided to Central Market, Joe V's Smart Shop and Mi Tienda locations.
All H-E-B partners, warehouses, manufacturing, and transportation facilities are also strongly encouraged to wear masks.
Some of the other public health measures H-E-B has taken to protect its staff and customers include the installation of plexiglass partitions at checkstands, metered entry into stores, and crowd control guidelines to manage customer traffic.
Learn more about how H-E-B and other businesses are changing their operations here.
2 p.m. — Blood center helps collect plasma from people who've recovered
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is participating in a federal investigational program to collect and distribute plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.
There is no proven treatment for COVID-19. Convalescent plasma is believed to contain antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers want to see if it can provide passive immunity to patients with severe forms of COVID--19.
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is one of a handful of blood centers in the U.S. that has the ability to test collected plasma to determine the concentration of antibodies in each sample.
Recovered patients can learn more about participating in the FDA study by emailing COVID19@southtexasblood.org.
1 p.m. — Comal County stay home order begins
Comal County issued a Stay Home, Work Safe order on Friday. It went into effect Saturday.
All residents must stay home unless engaged in essential activities.
All non-essential businesses must close. That includes river outfitters and short-term campgrounds.
Businesses that function as housing for long-term campers or provide fishing access are exempt from the order.
12 p.m. — New Braunfels closes parks for Easter
New Braunfels joins San Antonio in closing all parks Easter weekend to curb the spread of COVID-19.
New Braunfels city parks will close Thursday, April 9th at 8 p.m., through 8 a.m., Monday, April 13th. The parks will re-open for limited activities like walking, hiking and biking.
New Braunfels river parks are closed, as are all playgrounds and ball fields.
11 a.m. -Flu report affected
The COVID-19 response has likely affected the state's surveillance of influenza reports.
The Department of State Health Services reports a decrease in influenza activity reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending March 28th. DSHS reported widespread flu activity the week prior.
Nearly 51,000 positive cases of Influenza A and B have been reported in Texas so far this flu season.
Friday, April 3
7:30 p.m. — 324 cases reported
Metro Health has confirmed there are now 324 cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County; that's an increase of 88 since Thursday. No new deaths were reported, keeping the death toll at nine.
Of the 324 cases, 47 people have now completely recovered.
Community spread cases and travel related cases are equally chief causes of the spread of the illness.
Metro health reports it has tested 775 residents and 82% have turned out negative.
In order to increase local testing, the city is dropping physician referrals as a requirement to get a test.
7 p.m. — Mayor Nirenberg issues addendum to “Stay Home Work Safe” order
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued an addendum to the “Stay Home Work Safe” order. The addendum is consistent with Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order issued on March 31, 2020. The addendum outlines the following measures:
- Staff members at long-term care facilities may only work at one facility. Long-term care facilities should identify and exclude potentially infected staff members and implement appropriate infection control measures.
- Provides the City with the authority to revoke Certificates of Occupancy from businesses as an enforcement measure for repeat violations of Stay Home Work Safe orders.
- Requiring all food, household staples retail, including those doing pick-up/delivery to limit number of people at pickup or in an establishment so that social distancing may be maintained, implement an organized line system where spacing is at least 6 feet apart, and post the establishment’s guidelines that limit number of people and implement the line system.
- Closes park amenities including playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, skate plazas and splash pads at all community recreational areas.
- Closes City parks, except for walking/running/biking trails, on Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend;
- Closes all municipal and private golf courses and driving ranges (including frisbee courses).
6 p.m. — Watch the daily press briefing here
5 p.m. — Restrictions to be tested loosened
San Antonio Metro Health has relaxed COVID-19 testing requirements to where a doctor’s order is no longer required to take a test. People who want to test for the virus must be showing symptoms according to new guidance from Metro Health. The announcement comes as the city says it has received more tests.
An appointment is required. Residents are encouraged to use the city’s online COVID-19 screening tool to determine if they’re symptoms require testing. Residents can also contact metro health by phone at (210)-233-5970 to request a testing appointment.
11 a.m. — Watch the update on the outbreak at a San Antonio nursing home
Officials with the City of San Antonio confirmed 67 residents of the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for COVID-19. One has died.
Of the 60 staff members, eight have tested positive and are self-isolating.
More test results are pending or inconclusive.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is amending the city’s public health emergency order to prohibit any nursing home worker in the city from working in different facilities.
Bexar County will also issue a similar order. Metro Health is conducting contact investigations. The city has determined that the workers who have agreed to test so far have worked at 7 different facilities.
Thursday, April 2
8 p.m. — Update on nursing home outbreak
The number of COVID-19 cases at a San Antonio nursing home experiencing an outbreak has skyrocketed.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced 59 new positive cases among residents at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Southcross Blvd Thursday night. The city had announced the outbreak on Wednesday with eight positive resident cases, five staff, and one contract worker.
The sharp increase comes after all of the residents in the home were tested. The nursing home has 84 total residents. Tests were conducted on 76 residents. As a result, 59 additional tests came back positive and eleven came back negative. Two tests were inconclusive and four are still pending.
“We have been undergoing a contact investigation right now. We’ve obviously learned about previous inspections and violations so I’m confident those investigations and research will continue,” Nirenberg said during his nightly briefing on COVID-19.
The eight residents who were initial announced as positive cases were all taken to a hospital. One resident died and is among the city’s total count of nine deaths from the disease.
The city announced 254 total cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County however; the additional 59 from the nursing home were not included in that total.
Nirenberg said there would be an additional briefing on Friday morning.
6:30 p.m. — Community spread surpasses travel-related cases
Metro Health officials report the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County stood at 254 as of Thursday night. No new deaths were reported and the death toll stayed at nine. The number of new cases rose by 25 in a day.
Of the 254 cases, 47 people have now completely recovered.
Community spread cases have now surpassed travel-related cases as the chief cause of the illness.
The main message from local health officials is to stay home and stay safe.
6:13 p.m. — Watch today's daily briefing
5:15 p.m. — Police officer with COVID-19 had contact with dozens of residents
The first San Antonio police officer who tested positive for COVID-19 had contact with 39 residents resulting in low to negligible risk of exposure, according to Metro Health. These residents came in contact with the officer as a result of a traffic stop or traffic accident that he handled.
Metro Health sent a letter to these individuals today explaining that because of the community transmission of the novel coronavirus, everyone going out in public is at low risk for exposure to COVID-19.
The San Antonio Police Department has three officers in self-quarantine as a result of direct contact with the officer. To date, none of those officers has shown symptoms of COVID-19.
12:45 p.m. — San Antonio included in pandemic resilience program
A management and information technology consulting firm is making a pledge to its local employees and San Antonio to get through the coronavirus outbreak.
Booz Allen says San Antonio is one of 10 cities to receive a share of $100 million. Part of the money will help its nearly 600 local employees with childcare or healthcare costs related to the virus. Workers are also guaranteed a job through at least July 1.
The company is also making donations to help military members and the San Antonio Food Bank.
12:30 — Update on surrounding counties
Comal County confirmed three more cases of COVID-19, bringing to total to 15. The newest cases include one in Fair Oaks Ranch and two in the Bulverde area.
According to the Seguin Gazette, the number of cases in Guadalupe County rose to 20 on Wednesday. That includes six cases in Cibolo, three in Schertz and two in Seguin.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reports five confirmed cases in Wilson County and seven in Kendall County. Medina County reports three cases and Atascosa County has two.
Wednesday, April 1
6:50 p.m. — 229 cases reported in Bexar County
Metro Health officials report the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County stood at 229 as of Wednesday night. The number of new cases rose by 22 in a day. No new deaths were reported and the death toll stayed at 9.
Of the 229 cases, 45 have now completely recovered.
San Antonio Metropolitan Health officials report community spread cases are almost equal to travel-related cases.
6:13 p.m. — Watch today's daily COVID-19 briefing
12:30 p.m. — COVID-19 outbreak reported at a nursing home
Watch San Antonio Fire Department and Metro Health officials give information on the COVID-19 outbreak:
10:45 a.m. — Corona arts reflief program suspended
San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture and the Luminaria Artist Foundation announced a program to help artists during the COVID-19 pandemic will be suspended due to a large number of responses.
Applications submitted before April 3 at 5 p.m. will be evaluated for funding. The program offers up to $600 for artists living in Bexar County.
10 a.m. — 2nd police officer
A second San Antonio police officer has tested positive for COVID-19.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reports this case does not appear to have any connection to the first officer confirmed with COVID-19.
The officer is a 15-year veteran of the department and is recovering at home.
Tuesday, March 31
11 p.m. — Local leaders critcize Pentagon's COVID-19 reporting
The Defense Department this week ordered commanders at its installations not to publicly release coronavirus case numbers among their personnel.
Some local leaders say they’re concerned about what that lack of transparency will mean for public health in and around Joint Base San Antonio.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said Tuesday he was disappointed by the Pentagon policy — in part because the military community is a significant part of San Antonio’s population.
“We’ve got about 80,000 citizens working on those bases. So, all of them that are working, they're also living here in San Antonio,” he said. “The public has a right to know and they have a right to know where these cases are breaking out—what work environment are they in. We all need to know that.”
At last count Friday, Joint Base San Antonio reported that 28 military personnel, dependents and retirees had tested positive for COVID-19. JBSA will still report some of its positive cases to Metro Health.
6:13 p.m. — Watch the COVID-19 daily briefing
Mayor Ron Nirenberg confirmed 207 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those 69 are hospitalized, 32 are in the intensive care unit and 28 are on ventilators.
Nine people in the area have died.
6 p.m. — San Antonio Police Department gives details about officer who tested positive
SAPD responds to its first officer testing positive for COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/2S5NyUSgzp
— San Antonio PD (@SATXPolice) March 31, 2020
4:30 p.m. — Mental health hotline launched by Texas Health and Human Services Commission
A 24/7 statewide mental health support line is now available to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line toll-free at 833-986-1919.
3:30 p.m. — Gov. Abbott orders schools to stay closed
— Camille Phillips (@cmpcamille) March 31, 2020
Area districts say they're closed through May 1. The governor's executive order says “in-person classroom attendance shall not recommence until May 4.”
Monday, March 30
7 p.m. — Metro Health reports 168 cases
There are 168 cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio area according to Metro Health.
6:15 p.m. — Watch daily briefing here
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said 44 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the San Antonio-area. There are 168 people who have tested positive and six people have died.
2:10 p.m. — 6th death confirmed in the area; police officer tests positive
The City of San Antonio sent a statement confirming the sixth death related to COVID-19 in the area.
"The individual was a male in his 50s and had underlying health conditions. He received treatment at Methodist Northeast Hospital for an unrelated health issue and passed away there," said the statement.
A San Antonio police officer has also tested positive for COVID-19 according to officials. Travel was identified as the source of the infection.
1:50 p.m. — Freeman Coliseum, AT&T Center area may become overflow hospital
The area around Freeman Coliseum and AT&T Center will be the site of an overflow hospital if one is needed to deal with COVID-19 cases. The area is known as the Bexar County Grounds. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says the beds will be housed in one of the Coliseum’s Expo Halls.
“Its climate controlled. They’re in the process now of putting in something like 250 beds I believe,” Wolff said. “And they hope to have it operational in the next two or three days.”
Wolff says the hospitals in the county are in good shape to handle the number of cases but this site will be prepared if the curve pops up.
“Now if the curb pops up on us we will have that available so we won’t know I think until next few days to see how intense the situation will be but we’ll be prepared if we need to use it,” Wolff said.
Currently pre-approved testing for patients suspected of having COVID-19 is taking place in another area of the coliseum grounds.
Sunday, March 29
8:45 p.m. — Mayor calls for more ventilators
Some local manufacturers have stepped up to make ventilators or personal protective equipment for first responders.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is encouraging any local company to do the same, but they must contact the city health district first.
“If there are companies out there that can help with that process, a manufacturer or something like that, please contact us. We will put them in touch with the health authorities,” he said.
Some San Antonians have been making medical masks at home, but Metro Health reports no local hospitals have officially requested them. The CDC reports they would only be used in worst case scenarios.
8:30 p.m. — Officials say they're preparing for overrun hospitals
City and county officials said they are trying to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases by ordering residents to stay home as much as possible. But if hospitals are overrun, they are preparing a location to help backup medical facilities.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg would only tell reporters it will not be connected with any local hospital system.
“It’s an alternative facility at a different site, so it’s in the process of being set up right now and so this week we will be opening that up to the media to show you what’s in there,” said Nirenberg.
He also warned businesses again to follow the social distancing rules. Complaints can be phoned into 207-SAPD.
6:20 p.m. — 157 cases in the San Antonio-area
Breaking: San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says the number of COVID-19 cases in Bexar County has increased to 157 cases - up from 140 yesterday. 35 people are in the hospital. 12 are in intensive care – 11 are on ventilators. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/eCmu1vKdp5
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 29, 2020
8:20 a.m. — Studying cases by zip code
San Antonio Metro Health is now breaking down confirmed cases of COVID-19 by zip code.
On Saturday night, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the hope is to inform the public.
“The worst thing for us to do is not try to get all of the information out there that we possibly can and then somebody make a mistake and think everything is okay," he said. "So getting the information out, making sure that we’ve got all the data out that we can give -- I think that’s a good story for every citizen to listen to and then make their judgments on how they’re doing to work with us.”
The zip code with the highest number of cases – about a dozen – is 78209, which is commonly referred to as the Oh-Nine by local residents. It includes the areas of Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills.
8:15 a.m. — No Easter campsites
San Antonians will not be allowed to set up campsites in Brackenridge Park and other parks on Easter weekend.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg made the announcement duing a daily briefing on COVID-19 Saturday night.
The mayor said letting the camping take place would been an egregious act of irresponsibility.
“Unfortunately, that’s one of the traditions that we’re going to have to put a pause on because of the spread of this disease," he said. "I want to enjoy more Easters, and I want that to continue but it can’t continue when we have COVID-19 spread in our community.”
How enforcement will take place was not immediately clear. However, large public gatherings of more than 10 people are not permitted during the outbreak.
8:10 a.m. — Reports to police about non-essential businesses
More than 500 calls have been made to San Antonio police reporting non-essential businesses that should not be operating amid the public health emergency declarations.
Since the order went into effect last week, SAPD received 557 calls reporting business operation violations.
During a Saturday press briefing, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that SAPD officers have observed more than 400 business disregarding the order to close to the public.
“In each of those 417 cases," he explained, "the businesses owners have agreed to comply with the order voluntarily and have either closed, or if they’re an exempted business, in that case they’ve ensured that their business is ensuring proper social distancing.”
Nirenberg said no businesses have received a citation yet. Business owners who are operating outside of the public health emergency order can face a fine of up to $2,000 or up to six months in jail.
8 a.m. — The situation at hospitals
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Antonio is at 140. Most of the confirmed cases are recovering at home, however, there are dozens of people in the hospital.
On Saturday evening, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff explained that with a backlog of testing, the exact number of COVID-19 patients in the county is unclear.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said many of those in the hospital are still awaiting results.
“The folks in the hospital have severe symptoms enough to require acute care," he said. "We have 92 people in the hospital who are either confirmed positive or who are under investigation, meaning they’re awaiting a test result.”
Of those in the hospital, 37 are confirmed to have COVID-19. Six of those patients are in a condition critical enough that requires them to have ventilators. There are 55 people in the hospital who are still awaiting test results.
Nirenberg said the city is working to determine the number of recoveries.
7:55 a.m. — Military units join the response efforts
Two San Antonio-based military units were ordered into action Saturday to help fight the spread of coronavirus.
U.S. Army North told the San Antonio Express-News that the 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command headquarters and the 505th Military Intelligence Brigade headquarters were called to duty.
It was unclear where the units would go.
In the coronavirus fight, Army North, which is based out of Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston, will take the lead in working with FEMA to provide military support to communities that need it.
Saturday, March 28
7:10 p.m. — 140 coronavirus cases in Bexar County
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County stood at 140 as of Saturday night. The death toll remained unchanged at five, all women.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department reports most of the cases -- 36% -- are travel related. But community spread cases are growing as a chief cause. They make up 33% of all cases. Close contact accounts for 15% of the cases.
The 140 cases is a jump of 20 cases from those recorded as of Friday.
The last report shows 44% of the cases are among men and women in their 20s and 40s.
The main message from local health officials is stay home and stay safe. Wash hands thoroughly. Stay six feet away from others during essential errands.
6:55 p.m. — UTSA student and faculty member both test positive
A student and a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at San Antonio have tested positive for COVID-19.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said in a statement Saturday evening that the student and faculty member have not been on campus for weeks. They have been in self-isolation since returning from traveling abroad.
Eighmy says both members of the UTSA community are in quarantine at home and being treated by doctors.
4 p.m. — Sheriff's deputies, inmates exposed to positive case OK so far
A relative of a Bexar County District Court employee has tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
A statement on Saturday explained that after identifying all who may have been in contact with the employee, two Bexar County Sheriff's Office court security deputies and 27 inmates were singled out.
The employee has neither developed symptoms nor tested positive, the statement said.
Of the 27 inmates who had contact with the District Court employee, 22 are still in custody, the statement added. They were evaluated and placed under separate medical observation Friday night. The five people released will also be notified.
None of the inmates were currently showing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the statement reported.
The two deputies assigned to the court were also not currently displaying COVID-19 symptoms. They were placed on administrative leave.
3:45 p.m. — Local effort to build low-cost ventilators underway
As many as a million people could need a ventilator due to COVID-19 across the country. The nation has less than 20 percent of that according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
A San Antonio company and a city councilman are trying to help.
Councilman Roberto Trevino worked nonstop this week with local fabricator CANopener Labs to turn out a low-cost, quick deployment ventilator.
Weighing less than three pounds and costing a couple hundred dollars in parts, Trevino says it isn’t a replacement but in an emergency it could save lives.
The prototype was presented to city emergency managers Friday and will be reviewed by area physicians as well.
Read more about the project here.
3 p.m. — Trinity OKs pass/fail option
Trinity University is allowing students to request the conversion of their course registration to pass/fail grading.
Pass/fail courses are not used in GPA calculations, so the conversion could impact academic honors and graduate school applications.
The course withdrawal deadline for Trinity students has been extended to Monday, April 13th.
1:30 p.m. — Homemade masks not good enough for hospital use
Members of the community have responded to a shortage of medical supplies with donations of homemade masks. But those masks cannot be used by local hospitals.
University Health System spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen told the Rivard Report they're not experiencing a shortage of supplies, and are grateful for the community response.
UT Health physicians say home-sewn masks don't meet standard requirements for clinical care.
The Baptist Health System said they must investigate the efficacy of homemade masks in order to protect patients, staff, and the community.
The CDC says homemade masks can be used as a last resort, and should ideally be used in combination with a face shield.
For more information about how to help those in need, click here.
1 p.m. — Park amenities closing to discourage physical contact
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff have started daily televised briefings to provide updates on the coronavirus situation. They will air at 6:10 every evening.
During the first press conference on Friday night, they announced playgrounds, skate plazas and splash pads, exercise equipment, sports facilities like basketball courts in city and county parks would close to discourage physical contact.
Wolff said it’s possible that by Easter parks may be completely closed.
“That’s when generally a lot of people come out early and crowds cluster," he said, "and so it may be possible we either close on Easter or really police it so that we don’t have people coming together in close proximity.”
But don't let park closures discourage you. For other ideas on activities, click here.
12:45 p.m. — Food giveaways
Laid off San Antonio restaurant workers are welcome to visit a food giveaway event dubbed the “Love Drop Off” on Saturday in the parking lot of Dough Pizzeria at 6989 Blanco Road.
Visitors should stay in their vehicles. It will run this afternoon until the food runs out.
About 250 meal kits will be given away each week. The event is sponsored by Food Related, a wholesale food company.
Also, the Joe Gamez Law Firm and J-Prime Steakhouse are working together to provide fresh produce to low income, elderly, and at-risk families at no cost.
The bags of produce will be distributed on a first come, first served basis on Saturday afternoon in J-Prime’s parking lot at 1401 N Loop 1604 West.
For more information about how to help those in need, click here.
12:30 p.m. — University Hospital erects tent outside ER
During the SARS epidemic in Toronto 2003, tents outside hospitals were not an uncommon site. They were put up to separate potentially infected patients from those who weren’t whenever ERs got too full for proper social distancing measures.
Tents are now part of the “surge plan” of most hospitals.
On Friday afternoon, University Hospital put up a 20-by-40 foot tent.
According to a statement, they hope they don’t have to use it, but they want to be ready.
If the hospital needs to use the tent, patients would be screened outside the entrance. Patients with symptoms of COVID-19 would go to the tent for further evaluation, and either moved to an isolated area for care or tested and discharged if they are stable.
12 p.m. — SNAP and Medicaid renewal requirements waived
Renewal requirements have been waived for Medicaid and SNAP clients during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said Saturday that benefits will be automatically renewed so existing clients can maintain continuity of coverage.
Texas is also waiving interview requirements for households applying for SNAP. Households are not required to complete an interview before approval if identity has been verified and verification steps are completed.
The SNAP food assistance program serves 1.4 million families and individuals in Texas. Medicaid provides health coverage to 4.6 million Texans.
11:30 a.m. — Bexar County judge expects more cases
Metro Health reported on Friday night that at least 120 people in Bexar County are diagnosed with COVID-19.
County Judge Nelson Wolff said at a press conference that those numbers are expected to climb in the coming days as the rate of testing increases.
"Both the local orders and the state orders require private laboratories to share their test results with the public health authority," he explained. "So as those numbers come in, we'll see more positive cases."
Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the testing site at Freeman Coliseum is only available to people who have a physician's approval.
The city has posted a COVID-19 screening tool at SanAntonio.gov to help residents decide whether or not they need to see a doctor.
11 a.m. — A day of reflection
The community is invited to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic during a virtual Day of Reflection today.
The event features participation from area indigenous tribes; Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish reflections; and discussions on how people can remain grounded and focused during the pandemic.
10:30 a.m. — Governor deploys National Guard brigades to help with response
Gov. Greg Abbott will deploy three National Guard Joint Task Force brigades in support of the state's COVID-19 response.
The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate 10 general support units across the state.
Abbott said Friday the brigades will assist at drive-thru testing sites and in bolstering the state's healthcare infrastructure.
Abbott says the deployments will not diminish the National Guard's ability to meet operational commitments on the Texas border and overseas.
10 a.m. -- Waivers for child care regulations
Gov. Greg Abbott waived certain regulations that preserve and extend child care capacity for frontline workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
The waivers allow the Texas Workforce Commission to ensure families that use subsidized child care will not lose their slots. The waivers also secure payments to child care providers during the pandemic.
Children within the TWC child care services program can accrue absences without impacting eligibility or provider reimbursements.
Friday, March 27
6:30 p.m. — Mayor Nirenberg confirms there are 120 cases
There are now 120 cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio-area; 42 of which are community spread. Twelve more cases are under investigation.
Breaking: San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says there are now 120 positive cases of COVID-19 in San Antonio.
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 27, 2020
Nirenberg and Wolff also announced city and county playground equipment and ball courts in parks will close starting Friday night.
Thursday, March 26
7 p.m. — 113 cases confirmed
Metro Health released data showing 113 people in the area have tested positive for COVID-19, and five people have died.
There are 39 cases considered to be community spread and 16 others are under investigation.
6:30 p.m. — Air Force basic training to move from JBSA-Lackland
To prevent spread of COVID-19, Air Force officials will test a proof-of-concept plan for an alternate basic military training location at Keesler AFB in Mississippi beginning April 7. The only location for Air Force basic military training now is JBSA-Lackland. A new recruit at Lackland tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
The Air Force has already put "restriction of movement" protocols in place for incoming recruits to isolate them from the wider BMT population. New recruits will now be brought in on a four-week repeating cycle to allows for deep cleaning between rotations and a reset of instructors.
The next arrival of trainees, planned for March 31, will be rescheduled. From that point onward, approximately 460 trainees will arrive at BMT each week.
Plans are underway to send 60 trainees to Keesler AFB to test the feasibility of multiple training locations during emergencies.
“We are deliberately developing options to disperse the delivery of BMT during contingencies to provide surge capacity and introduce agility into the training pipeline construct,” said Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos, Second Air Force commander. “This will also help provide relief to the military training instructor staff and ease the strain on our BMT infrastructure.”
Located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Keesler AFB is home to the 81st Training Wing. The base also is home for the Second Air Force and the Air Force Reserve 403rd Wing. Training more than 28,000 students annually, with an average daily student load of more than 2,700, the 81st is a major joint training installation, and instructs personnel from every military service branch.
4:30 p.m. — Bexar County employee tests positive
A staff member with the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department, which runs several juvenile detention facilities, has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to officials with the department, the staffer did not work on site for the past two weeks. The facilities had already cut back on visitation, with families only able to contact detainees through video calls. The department says it has increased sanitation efforts, and that mental health counselors are available 24/7.
University Health System oversees health care services for all Bexar County correctional facilities. UHS officials said current policies are in line with Metro Health and CDC guidelines.
2 p.m. — City Council approves stay-at-home order until April 9
Breaking: San Antonio City Council formally extends Stay At Home Order through April 9th in a unanimous vote.@TPRNews
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 26, 2020
12 p.m. — Toyota extends suspension
Officials with San Antonio’s Toyota plant announced it is joining all other plants in North America in extending production suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The manufacturing facilities will remain closed through April 17, resuming production on April 20.
11 a.m. — City launches online self-screening tool
The City of San Antonio launched a new COVID-19 self-screening tool. The web-based platform can be found here.
It includes nine questions that ask about any symptoms and risk factors you might experience. After completing the screening, you'll be provided instructions on how to proceed.
One set of instructions could indicate there is no need to be tested and provide you more educational and preventative information. The other set could advise you to contact your health care provider or an urgent care clinic for an assessment, and if appropriate, be referred for a COVID-19 test.
Wednesday, March 25
8:30 p.m. — Limited access to JBSA
Access to Joint Base San Antonio will be limited to people on official business starting Thursday, March 26 at noon. It’s the latest attempt by base leadership to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
That means only active duty service members, civilian employees and other Defense Department personnel who have medical appointments – or appointments at mission support facilities – will be allowed.
Current visitor passes will still be honored, and everyone living on the installation will still have access. Military retirees with medical appointments will still be able to use base exchanges and commissaries.
7:10 p.m. — 84 cases confirmed in the area; 3 total deaths
Metro Health has released data showing there are now 84 cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio-area. Of those, 27 are from community spread and nine are under investigation.
Officials with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County also confirmed a third death related to COVID-19. The woman was in her 50s and had “chronic underlying health conditions” according to a statement. She received treatment at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, where she died.
6:15 p.m. — Basic trainee at JBSA tests positive for COVID-19
The trainee reported to basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on March 18 with about 600 others and was immediately put into a "restriction of movement" location along with about 40 other new trainees.
Starting last week, Air Education and Training officials began limiting trainees' movements on base for the first 14 days after their arrival to reduce the spread of COVID-19. During that restriction period, the trainees are placed in reduced-capacity living quarters, social distancing is enforced and their exposure to other populations is limited.
"During the 14-day restriction of movement, recruits... prepare for full scale training and complete administrative tasks and limited training objectives. They’ll operate within the parameters of social distancing and small group contact just to make sure we’re keeping them safe," Jennifer Gonzalez, chief of media operations for AETC said last week of the protocol.
According to AETC, once the infected trainee showed symptoms, he or she was isolated from others to "protect the health and safety of all Airmen in the training pipeline."
Public health officials are now performing tracing to determine who the trainee had close contact with. The confirmed positive trainee will remain in isolation until the virus is gone, officials said. No specific information about the trainee's current location has been released yet. The other 40 trainees living in the same bay with the individual have all been placed under quarantine.
“These are challenging times, but my Warhawks are a team of caring, professional, and ready personnel who are dedicated to meeting critical mission requirements, while safeguarding the health and wellness of instructors, trainees and their families,” said Col. Jason Janaros, 37th Training Wing commander. “We will ensure that the trainee who was diagnosed today and every other individual in our care is as safe and protected as possible.”
Starting Thursday, March 26, at noon access to Joint Base San Antonio will be limited to people on official business. It’s the latest attempt by base leadership to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
That means only active duty service members, civilian employees and other Defense Department personnel who have medical appointments – or appointments at mission support facilities – will be allowed.
Current visitor passes will still be honored, and everyone living on the installation will still have access. Military retirees with medical appointments will still be able to use base exchanges and commissaries.
At a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday night, JBSA Commander Laura Lenderman said the base was doing what it could to protect the training pipeline from COVID-19.
"This is a threat. It’s a threat inside the fence line and outside the fence line. We’re trying to preserve the mission essential functions here so that we can maintain our national defense," said Lenderman.
The latest information on JBSA’s COVID-19 response and prevention can be found here.
Air Force officials announced today that a basic trainee has tested positive for COVID-19. The trainee reported to basic military training at JBSA-Lackland on March 18 and was immediately put into a "restriction of movement" location along with about 40 others. @TPRNews— Carson Frame (@carson_frame) March 25, 2020
Tuesday, March 24
6:35 p.m. — 2nd death reported in the area
San Antonio officials confirmed a second death related to COVID-19 in the area. The woman was in her 40s and received treatment at University Hospital, where she died on March 24.
6:30 p.m. — City hosts town hall to address Stay-At-Home questions
4 p.m. — 69 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Metro Health reports there are now 69 confirmed cases in Bexar County. Eighteen of those cases are considered community spread and nine more are under investigation.
Monday, March 23
6 p.m. — Rules of stay-at-home order released
City and county officials held a press conference to address the rules of the stay-at-home order, which goes into effect on 11:59pm Tuesday. The order included a list of businesses that are allowed to stay open: healthcare operations, schools, childcare services, news media among others.
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 23, 2020
Find more details about the order here.
RELATED: Coronavirus Live Updates from NPR
4 p.m. — 57 new cases confirmed
Metro Health reports there are now 57 cases of COVID-19 in the area, 16 of which were transmitted through community spread.
3:30 p.m. — JBSA closes several gates
Joint Base San Antonio has closed some of its gates to limit contact between gate guards and those accessing the base. It has also limited gate hours.
Over the weekend, the base increased its health protection level to HPCON Charlie, which means the base is at substantial risk due to community transmission of COVID-19.
Anthony Fleming is the Security Forces Group Superintendent at JBSA. He says nine gates have closed so far.
“By reducing those points, we’re limiting the number of personnel exposed to potentially infected personnel,” said Fleming.
Fleming says gate guards are keeping their distance from people trying to access JBSA. As part of that, they’re scanning ID cards from afar and not touching them.
More info about gate hours and closures is available here.
2 p.m. — San Antonio to issue stay-at-home
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is drafting a Stay-At-Home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A communications staff member in the office of Mayor Nirenberg confirmed it is being drafted in conjunction with Bexar County, meaning it will affect the suburban cities and unincorporated county.
The exact language of the order – such as which businesses will be closed – is still being written and an exact time of when it will be implemented is unclear. Grocery stores and similar essential businesses will not be affected and will remain open.
News of the Stay-At-Home order comes one day after Dallas County issued a declaration of its own.
Sunday, March 22
4:50 p.m. — First death from COVID-19 reported in the area
According to Bexar County and San Antonio officials, a woman in her 80s died on Saturday, March 21 from COVID-19. She had underlying health issues and was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, a statement said.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged residents to stay home and listen to health officials.
“Today’s tragic development illustrates the importance of the aggressive steps we are taking to thwart the spread of COVID-19. Stay home unless you must go out. Follow the health experts’ guidelines,” said Nirenberg.
1 p.m. — 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Metro Health released testing numbers, timestamped March 21 at 8 p.m., showing there are now 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County. Of those cases, 10 are designated as community spread and two more are under investigation.
Saturday, March 21
7 p.m. — JBSA raises health protection level; Four more positive cases
Joint Base San Antonio has increased its health protection level to H-P-CON Charlie, which signals the base is at substantial risk due to sustained community transmission of COVID-19.
According to a statement released by JBSA on Saturday, four additional base personnel have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 11.
The Army Public Health Center recommends several actions when an installation moves to H-P-Con Charlie… including preparing for the possibility of being restricted to your home.
4:25 p.m. — COVID-19 in surrounding counties
Comal County officials confirmed three cases of COVID-19, including one on Saturday, from 47 tests conducted. Officials said the most recent case appeared to be travel-related.
The Seguin Daily News reported Guadalupe County confirmed its first case Friday.
The Boerne Star said Kendall County reported its second case of COVID-19 Friday.
One case was confirmed in Medina County.
12:30 p.m. — 39 positives in Bexar County
There are 39 positive cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported 16 are travel related, and nine cases are community spread. The rest are close-contact related to the travel cases or remain under investigation.
No COVID-19-related deaths are reported in Bexar County.
12:15 p.m. — Scams
Scammers are attempting to cash in on a proposed federal stimulus package that would send Americans a check to offset lost income during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Better Business Bureau said to be on the lookout for social media posts, text messages, or phone calls that proclaim you qualify for a COVID-19 government grant.
Another scam targets seniors on Facebook with the lure of a grant that pays medical bills through a phony government agency called the U.S. Emergency Grants Federation.
The BBB advised the public to report suspected scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Other scams include the selling of fake cures online, phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the CDC, and groups seeking donations for non-existent nonproifits.
U.S. Attorney John Bash urged the public to report suspected fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, 866-720-5721, or email email@example.com.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes.
12:10 p.m. — State issues waivers
Governor Abbott issued waivers Friday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Permit refunds will be made available for businesses whose events were canceled due to COVID-19.
Abbott also directed the Texas Department of Criminal justice to temporarily suspend inmate fees for health care services related to COVID-19.
Regulatory barriers have also been removed to allow pharmacists to conduct consultations over the phone.
One waiver lightens permitting requirements for retired nurses as well as certain nursing students who are close to completing their training.
Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas March 13th due to the threat of COVID-19.
11:45 a.m. — May 26 runoff election delayed
Governor Abbott has postponed the May 26 runoff election to July 14.
The proclamation issued Friday comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early voting begins July 6th.
11:15 a.m. — Arts and activities closed or canceled, but don't let that hold you back
In a statement, the city advised that "Parks and Recreation indoor facilities including community and adult/senior centers, clubhouses, and gyms are closed until further notice. All programming and classes are suspended."
It added: "Parks reservations counter at Ron Darner Headquarters will close to the public through April 19."
Also, Spanish Governors Palace and Mission Marquee Plaza are closed until April 18, and all libraries and city owned galleries and museums are closed through April 19.
But that doesn't mean you can't virtually tour a museum or enjoy variety of other fun activities. Check out some options here.
Also, don't forget that Bexar County's all-digital library BiblioTech is still available 24/7.
Residents can sign up for a free membership and receive access to e-books, audiobooks, magazines, movies, music, active learning and more.
Visit BiblioTechRegistration.bexar.org for more information.
11 a.m. — Find a restaurant that offers take-out, drive-thru or delivery services
The city has created a special website for customers still craving their favorite dishes. Check it out here.
Restaurant owners may also add their establishments to the list.
Learn how other businesses are adjusting to the coronavirus outbreak here.
10:45 a.m. -- Pet adoptions this weekend
Animal Care Services is hosting free adoptions on Saturday and Sunday.
The group Free the Shelters hopes the public will help empty the ACS kennels.
ACS is at 4710 State Highway 151. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this weekend.
For foster applications and online adoptions, visit its website.
Learn how to help in other ways here.
9:45 a.m. —Zoo sends most of its staff home
The San Antonio Zoo has furloughed a majority of its staff due to its decision to close to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The zoo is a private nonprofit organization. San Antonio Zoological Society president & CEO Tim Morrow says critical animal care, infrastructure, safety, and security staff continue to work on the grounds.
An emergency fund has been established to raise funds for essential operations and animal care. Learn more about it here.
8:15 a.m. —New blood drive next week
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center holds a weeklong blood drive to build the region's blood supply amid coronavirus concerns.
The drive takes place Monday through Friday at the San Antonio Shrine Auditorium, near Loop 1604 & Highway 281 on San Antonio's northside. Hours each day are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Donations are by appointment only at SouthTexasBlood.org and at 210-731-5590.
Friday, March 20
8:45 p.m. – San Antonio area hospitals suspend patient visits
San Antonio area hospitals are temporarily ending visits unless they are deemed necessary for patient care.
Beginning Saturday, a limited number of visitors will be allowed for babies and children in intensive care and for patients who are dying. One person will be allowed to accompany patients with disabilities or impairments who require help, and for people who have outpatient surgery.
Women in labor and after delivery will be allowed one support person.
A person who is in the military and about to be deployed may visit a loved one to say good-bye.
All visitors will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and will have their temperature taken.
All elective surgeries are canceled. At University Hospital, any transplants that can be postponed, will be postponed.
4:30 p.m. – Joint Base San Antonio cases jump to 7
Three more personnel at Joint Base San Antonio have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to seven confirmed cases of the virus on base.
The three new cases include an Air Force reservist assigned to JBSA-Randolph who recently returned from leave in Seattle, and two unrelated dependents. All three are in isolation in their homes.
Public health officials are now tracing who they came in contact with. JBSA leadership said in a statement that they're monitoring the situation and working with the San Antonio Metro Health Department to coordinate virus prevention and response.
As of Friday morning, there are 67 service members battling COVID-19, according to the Pentagon, as well as 15 Department of Defense civilians, 26 dependents and 16 contractors.
1:30 p.m. – VIA suspends ride fares
VIA Transit officials announced a systemwide fare relief period for all VIA fixed-route bus service, VIA transtrips and VIA Link on-demand services.
Fares will be suspended beginning Saturday, March 21 until 1 a.m. on April 1.
In a statement, officials said they will then evaluate the situation and provide an update for moving ahead.
“We realize that public transit is a necessity for many in our community every day and perhaps especially during a crisis, including those whose work is essential during emergencies, or who may rely on transit as their only means of travel to workplaces, meal distribution sites, critical service centers, or other necessary trips,” the statement said.
1:20 p.m. – Investigation confirms 8 cases are community spread, overall count remains at 29
Breaking: San Antonio Metro Health reports no new positive cases of COVID-19 from yesterday to today. It remains at 29.
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 20, 2020
Thursday, March 19
8:30 p.m. – 6 of 29 COVID-19 cases in San Antonio are from community spread; City enacts new measures
Community spread of the novel coronavirus has occurred in San Antonio according to the city’s Metro Health. On Thursday the San Antonio City Council extended emergency measures with the hope of limiting spread.
The city says there are 29 cases of COVID-19 in Bexar County. Of that, six have been proven to be community spread. Community spread occurs when a positive case cannot be attributed to travel or contact with another positive case.
The measures passed by the city council limit which businesses are allowed to remain open during the pandemic and put operating restrictions on restaurants.
“We have been making preparations and implementing prevention efforts over the last two months as the global COVID-19 pandemic continued to grow,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg in an e-mailed statement from the city. “We are now are entering the most difficult phase in the rapidly-changing battle against this virus and we must stay the course.”
In its most recent figures posted by Metro Health, many of the 29 positive cases skew on the younger side. Two cases are under 19; five cases are between the ages of 19-20; four are in their 30s; eight people are in their 40s; three are age 50-59; three are in their 60s; and four are in their 70s.
On Thursday, the city council voted to extend the mayor’s fourth public health emergency declaration by 30 days. The order will be in effect until April 19.
Two of the council members attended the meeting via video conference. District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said two attendees of the National League of Cities Conference she attended in Washington D.C. this month tested positive for the virus. She self-quarantined out of an abundance of caution. District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez just returned from Colombia with his family and self-quarantined under a directive for city employees to isolate after returning from international travel.
At the time of the vote, the news of community spread was not publicly known.
During the meeting, San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said overcoming this health crisis won't be easy.
“There are a lot of people counting on the city and failure is not an option for us,” he said.
As part of the city’s plan, Walsh told the council that employees around the city are being restructured into different departments. For instance, staff for Pre-K 4 SA, the city’s pre-k program, are being used to assist the San Antonio Food Bank prepare meals for children.
The city made note is has seen a large drop in travel departing from the San Antonio International Airport, a drop as much as 69% from February to March. Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez also noted 28 out of 49 event reservations at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center had been canceled through October. And 10 out of 31 events at the Alamodome were also canceled.
The city’s public health emergency declaration closes the following businesses: Bars, lounges, nightclubs, taverns, private clubs, gyms or health studios, indoor commercial amusement businesses, bowling alleys, bingo parlors and theaters.
“What we’re trying to do now is save lives, this is a pandemic and we are keeping two hands on the wheel to make sure that our community gets through this crisis as soon as possible,” Nirenberg said. “We know that these are not easy decisions to make. We know that they affect the livelihoods of many people.”
He added the full closures only apply to those businesses.
“Unless it was expressly prohibited in the order, that business is allowed to continue operating,” he said.
That means establishments like the San Antonio International Airport, child care facilities, places of worship, funeral homes, museums (so long as visitors are generally not within arm’s length of one another for extended periods), office spaces, residential buildings, grocery stores, shopping malls, outdoor markets or other retail stores may remain open.
Restaurants have limited operating capacity. While dining rooms must be closed, a restaurant can allow for to-go orders, delivery, curbside, and drive-thru.
The shutdown and modified service was met with opposition from the San Antonio Restaurant Association. It’s executive director Dawn Ann Larios said workers will see layoffs.
“It’s already happening, it’s been happening all week long. Unfortunately since they moved us to curbside, takeout, and delivery as of 11:59 p.m. last night (Wednesday), employers had the tough talks yesterday, they’re having the tough talks today,” said Larios.
During the council meeting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott enacted a public health disaster declaration statewide that prohibits restaurants from operating their dining rooms much like the city’s order. Abbott’s order, however, ends on April 3.
It also also closes schools, prohibits nursing homes from allowing visitors, and prohibits groups of ten or more from forming.