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San Antonio Officials Urge Vaccinations As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Cross 400

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff join other officials at a press conference encouraging the unvaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible .
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff join other officials at a press conference encouraging the unvaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

San Antonio health officials are doubling down on the urgency to get vaccinated as hospitalizations reach 418 people, a sharp increase compared to the beginning of July.

New infections, driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus, have risen dramatically in recent weeks -- now at 363 per day when new daily cases sat at 126 two weeks ago. Those contracting the virus by-and-large are unvaccinated, health officials said, with around 95% of those in the hospital are not fully vaccinated.

During a press conference Friday with representatives of the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and local hospitals, Mayor Ron Nirenberg called upon the estimated 38% of county residents who are not vaccinated to get the shot as soon as possible.

“If you are unvaccinated, forget the disinformation that you hear out there. You are at great risk of severe illness,” he said, referencing incorrect and non-factual information circulating about the vaccine. “People who are vaccinated are still contracting COVID-19 but the vast majority of those cases are mild and do not require hospitalizations.”

Close to 12% of the recent infections are people who have received the vaccine, known as breakthrough infections, Metro Health Assistant Director Anita Kurian explained. An illustration of those who get the vaccine are still susceptible to the virus but the risk of severe illness and death are minimal.

Nationally, the delta variant has made up 83% of recent new cases, according to CDC testimony to the Senate this week, a figure that Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said was mirrored locally. Wolff offered a grim warning to those who have not received a vaccine yet.

“The people that are in the hospital today are those that chose not to get vaccinated. I would hope that they would send a clear message to everybody else that you better go get your vaccination. It’s a little late to ask for the vaccination when you’re fixing to go on a ventilator,” Wolff said.

Just in the past 24 hours, several dozen people have been admitted into area hospitals, according to Bill Waechter, president of North Central Baptist Hospital, who spoke on behalf of the various hospital systems in Bexar County.

“We've admitted over 70 patients today, 70 new patients today in San Antonio area hospitals. We have 121 patients in the ICU and 50 patients are unfortunately on ventilators across our city,” he said.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said he was coming from a place of frustration, more than 500 days into the pandemic, during which there is still vaccine hesitancy that could lead to stressed resources of the fire department and health care system.

“To think that we still have people out there that are hesitant to get this vaccine is very frustrating because as we talk about these numbers, as far as people in the hospitals are, citizens are still going to be in accidents. They're still going to be injured. They're still going to have heart attacks. That causes us to potentially divert to other locations. And maybe they don't get the standard of care as quickly as they could,” Hood said.

The positivity rate among tests in Bexar County has grown to 13.2 percent; a 10% jump compared to a couple of weeks ago. San Antonio Metro Health will hold multiple free pop-up vaccination clinics where the vaccine can be given immediately over the weekend and next several weeks.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules