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San Antonio COVID Threat Is 'Severe' And Hospitals Are Stretched Thin But Officials' Hands Are Tied When It Comes To Mask, Vaccine Mandates

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A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.
Photo illustration by Max Posner/NPR
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.

Officials increased San Antonio/Bexar County's COVID level to "severe" last week, and issued an emergency alertto warn all residents about the rising threat caused by the virus' more transmissible Delta variant.

As of Friday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported there were 1,002 COVID-positive patients in local hospitals, with 273 of those in intensive care units and 158 on ventilators. Up to 97% of those hospitalized are not vaccinated.

Texas has reported nearly 9,000 COVID-19 deaths since February 2021. All but 43 of those who died were unvaccinated.

At least 3,689 people in San Antonino have died from COVID-19 since March 2020.

Even as Delta surges throughout the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said, "Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19" and "the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates."

Abbot banned government agencies from making individuals get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination, and local governments and school districts from issuing mask mandates, and emphasized the removal of all public health limits on Texas businesses.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg sent a letter asking Gov. Abbottto allow them the ability to enforce mask-wearing in schools and government buildings to help curb the surge and protect children returning to campuses for in-person instruction, and for help with hospital staffing amid a daunting number of new admissions. Those requests were denied.

How will the state's mask-mandate ban affect those returning to school and work in Bexar County? Is there any workaround that would allow local officials to enforce CDC-approved masking guidelines?

What's the latest on vaccine pop-up clinics? Will mass testing locations be reopened in Bexar County?

How is the ongoing surge impacting the local health care system including doctors and nurses who have now been treating COVID patients for more than 18 months? Are local hospitals experiencing capacity issues, worker burnout and staff shortages?

What impact is the failure to rein in COVID-19 having on our community? What efforts are being made to address vaccine hesitancy and hostility, and get more San Antonio-area residents vaccinated?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, August 10.

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