COVID-19 Live Blog: 25 Confirmed Cases In San Antonio; Restaurants, Bars Closed To Dine-In Customers | Texas Public Radio

COVID-19 Live Blog: 25 Confirmed Cases In San Antonio; Restaurants, Bars Closed To Dine-In Customers

23 hours ago

The San Antonio Metro Health hotline is 210-207-5779. (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

The statewide hotline is 2-1-1 for coronavirus questions. (Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.)

Here's what we know so far...

Wednesday, March 18

9 p.m.  More than two dozen cases in San Antonio

Metro Health has raised its count of total confirmed cases to 25. That includes eight travel-related cases, four close-contact cases and 13 cases under investigation.

In a press release issued Wednesday night, Dr. Colleen Bridger, San Antonio assistant city manager, added, “We have seen 111 negative tests and as expected, when we increased access to testing, we diagnosed additional cases of COVID-19, many of which are still under investigation.”

Continue to track Metro Health's count here.

Related: COVID-19 Is Costing People Their Jobs. Here's How To Apply For Unemployment In Texas

5 p.m. — Restaurants and bars close to dine-in customers

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has issued an order barring some businesses from operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes bars and other establishments.  Restaurants may operate to-go only. The order applies only to those businesses within San Antonio city limits.  Later Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott waived certain regulations to allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic bevarges with food purchases.

The mayor is also asking residents to stay home in the evening.

4 p.m. — Toyota closes San Antonio plant for two days next week

San Antonio’s Toyota plant will stop production on Monday and Tuesday next week.

In a statement from Toyota North America, the company says it will stop production at all of its plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for the two days next week to ensure the health and safety of employees and anticipated decline in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A thorough cleaning will also be conducted.

Toyota says all of its employees will be paid for the two days that production is stopped.

The company plans to reopen on Wednesday.

1 p.m. —  Testing guidelines announced for Freeman Coliseum

Expanded testing for COVID-19 will happen at Freeman Coliseum, a venue on East Houston Street in San Antonio. The site has the capacity to administer up to 16 tests an hour.

Here are the guidelines for individuals to be tested: 

  1. First responders
  2. Healthcare workers
  3. VIA bus drivers
  4. Individuals who think they have been exposed and have symptoms, with a doctor’s pre-approval

11 a.m. — AT&T Center to be used for testing; financial help announced for businesses and individuals

Bexar County officials said COVID-19 testing will happen at the AT&T Center, a multi-purpose indoor arena where the San Antonio Spurs play.

Bexar County commissioners also announced a plan to invest $5 million to provide interest-free loans to local businesses.

Delinquent property tax foreclosure sales for the months of April and May will also be canceled according to Albert Uresti, Bexar County’s Tax Assessor-Collector.

“To limit in-person visits for at least the next 30 days, property tax payments and payment plan requests, as well as vehicle registrations and vehicle title transfer requests, will be accepted at our curbside drop-off, online, by phone, by mail, or in our 24 hour drop-box,” Uresti said.  “Additionally, the State has postponed due dates and some requirements for vehicle registrations and title transfers.”

Tuesday, March 17

7:45 p.m. — 11 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in San Antonio

6:30 p.m. — Air Force continues training

The Air Force has deemed Basic Military Training, technical training and flying training operations mission-essential, so they will continue — for now — during the coronavirus outbreak.

Lieutenant Colonel Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, said Tuesday that he was looking at ways to prevent further spread of the virus — while keeping basic training going.

“It might be a slightly reduced schedule. It might be that we look at other methods to ensure that we’re not transmitting the disease even further,” Webb said.

Webb added that the one of the major challenges is making sure trainees continue to progress. The spread of COVID-19 last week prompted a stop-movement order from the Defense Department.

For the moment, new recruits continue to arrive to San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base for basic military training.

4 p.m. — Fifth COVID-19 case confirmed

Officials with the City of San Antonio has confirmed a fifth positive case of COVID-19. It's listed on the city's website as under investigation.

The other four are indicated to be travel-related; it’s not clear if the most recent case is confirmed community spread.

This is the fifth case in five days.

1 p.m. — San Antonio area schools extend Spring Break to April 3

The following school districts have extended their Spring Breaks through Friday, April 3:

  • North East ISD
  • Northside ISD
  • San Antonio ISD
  • Edgewood ISD
  • East Central ISD
  • Alamo Heights ISD
  • Somerset ISD
  • Fort Sam Houston ISD
  • Judson ISD
  • Southside ISD
  • Harlandale ISD
  • Southwest ISD
  • Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD
  • South San Antonio ISD
  • Pre-K 4 SA
  • KIPP Texas

Follow TPR's education reporter Camille Phillips on Twitter for updates on school closures:

12 p.m. — Texas National Guard activated

Gov. Greg Abbott announced he’s activating the Texas National Guard to prepare for COVID-19 response efforts.

Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so they can continue working in their respective fields. 

"By activating the Texas National Guard, we are ensuring Texas is prepared as we continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," said Governor Abbott. "I… want to assure the public that this is a precautionary measure to make sure the Texas National Guard has the capability to serve at a moment's notice where they are needed most."

Lt. Col. Laura Sanchez Cross said the National Guard is in the middle of planning efforts.

"The Texas National Guard has unique resources and equipment to support our civilian partners and we bring a wide breadth of expertise and assets to enhance the COVID-19 response with trained personnel for this type of emergency," she said.

Monday, March 16

9 p.m. — Officials Confirm fourth travel-related case

Metro Health and City of San Antonio officials confirmed there is now a fourth travel-related case of COVID-19. They were traveling within the U.S.

The person is a physician resident with University Hospital and is now in home isolation. Anyone who was in contact with them is on a 14-day quarantine. 

Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued a public health emergency declaration prohibiting public gatherings of 50 or more people. This includes indoor public and private gatherings and outdoor gatherings within an enclosed space. 

There are exemptions at bus stops, malls, grocery stores, the airport and other "retail establishments where large numbers of people are present but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another for extended periods."

Related: Coronavirus Is Spreading In Texas — More Than 4 Million Texans Don't Have Paid Sick Leave

5 p.m. — Alamo officials announce indefinite closure

Officials at The Alamo announced Monday that the state's top historical tourist attraction has closed until further notice because of the threat of community spread of Coronavirus.

About 2.5 million visitors tour The Alamo every year according to Visit San Antonio.

2:30 p.m. — COVID-19 tests and drive-through centers to "increase in access"

While frontline workers and first responders were initially given priority when it comes to drive-through testing, those centers will "increase in access" in the coming days according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Two more drive-through centers will open in San Antonio to first responders, healthcare workers and people 65 and older who meet the testing criteria. 

Gov. Greg Abbott added that all tests will become more available soon.

Listen to The Source: Coronavirus Crisis Prompts Panic Buying In San Antonio. Should You Stock Up?

"By the end of this week everyone who needs a COVID-19 test will be able to get a COVID-19 test," said Abbott.

He stressed someone would need a note from a doctor to be tested. 

There are currently three travel-related COVID-19 cases in San Antonio.

More than 200 people in Texas have been tested, and 300 more are pending.

2 p.m. — Gov. Abbott Confirms 57 cases in Texas

At a press conference in San Antonio, Gov. Greg Abbott said there are 57 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 15 Texas counties. That does not included evacuees who are quarantined.

12 p.m. — Texas hospitals prohibit visitors

All hospitals in Texas are prohibiting nonessential visitors due to the "significant health and safety risk to patients posed by COVID-19." The warning comes from Texas Health of Human Services Commission.

It is unclear if this applies to VA hospitals.

Related: 'I Don't Know That I've Ever Been This Worried' — Medical Experts Urge The Public To Donate Blood

Sunday, March 15

10:50 p.m. The third travel-related case is confirmed in San Antonio

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department announced a third confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in San Antonio. The individual was recently in Spain.

Metro Health said the person who tested positive is in isolation, and people who may have come into contact with the individual will be notified.

The first travel-related case in the city involved a person who was recently in California. The second travel-related case was found in a person who recently returned from Japan. None of the three confirmed cases are related to the Lackland Air Force Base quarantine.

The cases are not indicative of community spread but San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city will try to get ahead of the curve.

“We’ve got to be as aggressive as we can to contain this virus and not assume that there is no community spread,” Nirenberg told TPR.

Late Sunday night, USAA announced one of its San Antonio employees tested positive for the virus. However, that employee is out of state and has not been on the campus since March 6th.

USAA spokesman Matt Hartwig said the employee was not experiencing any symptoms when last on the campus.

“A small number of identified employees who had previous significant exposure to the affected individual have been notified,” he told TPR. “Although none have presented symptoms, they will remain under self-quarantine until March 21.”

Health officials also announced new testing criteria for COVID-19:

  1. Patient shows fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath and the patient has had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case within 14 days of symptom onset
  2. Patient shows fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness and significant respiratory illness and patient is a health care worker and first responder, who has had close contact with a strongly suspected COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
  3. Patient shows fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness and other significant respiratory illness has been excluded (such as flu); and patient has risk factors that puts the individual at high risk or poor outcomes or is a health care worker or first responder
  4. Patient shows severe acute respiratory illness such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, which requires hospitalization and has a negative flu diagnosis and no source of COVID-19 exposure has been identified or is a health care worker or first responder

Officials said people who think they may have the disease should not call Metro Health or go to the emergency room. Instead, they said people seeking medical care for symptoms of the disease should call their primary care physician or an urgent care provider.

5:05 p.m. —  San Antonio military hospitals set up triage tents

As a precautionary measure, the San Antonio Military Health System has placed triage tents outside of Brooke Army Medical Center, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Randolph Clinic and Reid Clinic to screen patients for COVID-19. The tents are scheduled to be used on Tuesday, March 17.

"SAMHS is taking all necessary precautions to prevent unintentional COVID-19 cases from entering our hospitals and clinics," said Maj. Gen. John DeGoes, director, SAMHS, and commander, 59th Medical Wing. "Please keep in mind that these triage tents will only become operational if necessary and will not limit our trauma mission or our patients' access to healthcare."

Patients who are experiencing upper respiratory issues or other signs of infection may be re-routed to the triage tents.

Brooke Army Medical Center spokesman Bob Whetstone added that patients with symptoms should call TRICARE’s 24/7 Nurse Advice Line for help deciding whether self-care is the best option or if it is better to see a healthcare provider.

“We can put them in a place where they can get the proper care,” he said.

Patients with questions can visit MHSNurseAdviceLine.com for a web or video chat, or dial 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273), option 1.

The San Antonio Military Health System around 240,000 beneficiaries. There are currently no Joint Base San Antonio COVID-19 cases, though two travel-related cases have been confirmed among the general public in San Antonio.

"As an additional precaution, BAMC is temporarily delaying elective surgeries in order to make sure healthcare providers and resources are ready in case of an increased need for acute patient care."

Saturday, March 14

6:30 p.m. — District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez will self-quarantine

San Antonio’s District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez will quarantine himself once he returns from vacation in Colombia.

The decision comes after City Manager Erik Walsh asked all city employees returning from overseas trips undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Pelaez plans to conduct city business remotely. He’ll attend council meetings using video conferencing. Read more about his plans here.

Related: San Antonio City Councilman To Self-Quarantine After Returning From Colombia

1 p.m. — The second travel-related case is confirmed in San Antonio

San Antonio's Metro Health officials confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 in San Antonio. The individual was recently in Japan and has underlying health issues that made the person more susceptible to contracting the illness. The individual is receiving treatment.

The first travel-related case in the city involved a person who was recently in California. Neither of these cases are related to the Lackland Air Force Base quarantine.

There are no reported cases of community spread in San Antonio. 

Metro Health has also received approval from the State of Texas to change its testing protocols. There is now no travel history requirement in order to be tested.

11 a.m. — H-E-B changes store hours

All H-E-B stores, Central Market and H-E-B pharmacies announced they will close Saturday at 8 p.m.

Starting Sunday, March 15, all stores will open at 8 a.m. and then close 12 hours later until further notice. Find out more information about how the stores are responding here.

Related: Shoppers Flock To H-E-B As Stores Shorten Hours 

12:30 p.m. — Medical experts urge the public to donate blood

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is worried as partner organizations that host its blood drives are now canceling them over coronavirus concerns.

The center warns that may only worsen its limited supply of blood. Read more about the concerns here.

Elizabeth Waltman, the center’s chief operating officer, urges the public to donate blood. She says giving blood is safe.

9:30 a.m. — Amusement parks close

Sea World is open through the weekend, but will close all its theme parks through March beginning Monday. Six Flags Fiesta Texas is closed through March. Schlitterbahn parks in both New Braunfels and Galveston are closed through the end of March.

9:20 a.m. — New Braunfels' 175th anniversary

Concerns over coronavirus have suspended some activities surrounding the city's birthday.

The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce says it's postponing events scheduled for March 14th through the 22nd until this fall. Those events included the pickup of the 125th time capsule and a Founders Day parade.

The Texas legislative conference set for later this month in New Braunfels is also postponed until late September.

9:15 a.m. — Reinforcements for Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is sending clients additional meals in case of an interruption in delivery service. The organization wants to get extra food supplies to at-risk, elderly clients who may face mobility challenges.

Food delivery personnel will practice social distancing during meal drops. Meals on Wheels is also suspending in-person client intakes and re-assessments. New clients will be screened over the phone.

Donations can be made online to MOWSATX.org.

9:00 a.m. — Worship services affected

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller issued a decree Friday that suspends all public masses in parishes and other chapels this weekend. Funeral services will continue, but with an awareness of congregation size. Churches will remain open in the daytime for private prayer.

First Presbyterian suspended Sunday services. It will offer a streamed service on its website Sunday at 11 a.m. St. Mark's Episcopal Church hosts a virtual morning prayer service on Facebook Live at 10 a.m. Sunday in lieu of its in-person services. The video will be posted later on the church's website. Community Bible Church will also offer its services online and close its campus through March 23.

Check with your place of worship for more information on weekend services.

Friday, March 13

5 p.m. — A special report from Texas Public Radio

5 p.m. — City closures and county court information

The City of San Antonio released a list of closures which include all libraries, senior centers and parks and recreation activities. 

Municipal court has postponed all March juvenile court mediations. All jury trials have been suspended through April 23. To see more closures and information visit the city's website. Unless specifically listed all city services are operating as normal.

Bexar County Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez announced she would self-quarantine after a defendant appeared before her who later claimed he had been in contact with a person who recently returned from Italy, which has seen a major outbreak.

Gonzales serves in Court At Law No. 13. “I encouraged my staff – who I could encourage – to self-quarantine, to take some time off with me. I’m going to take the next two weeks off and not have any contact with anybody other than my wife who has decided to self-quarantine with me so I’m not alone,” Gonzalez said.

A statement from the Bexar County District Attorney’s office said the defendant did not meet the criteria for screening, and “no one present in County Court 13 (Friday) morning has been symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19.”

2:30 p.m. — Several school districts in the San Antonio area will be closed next week

After public health emergencies have been declared for the city, state and nation, several of San Antonio's largest school districts announced they will be closed next week.

The closures include Northside ISD, North East ISD, San Antonio ISD and others. See a complete list of the closures here.

12 p.m. — First Texas drive-through testing center opens for San Antonio

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state disaster in response to coronavirus. He also said a drive-through testing facility is opening in San Antonio for first responders, people operating critical infrastructures and others who may be considered high risk.

Abbott said the state of Texas has the ability to test 275 people a day.

10:30 a.m. — Fiesta is postponed to November

The Fiesta San Antonio Commission announced the event will be pushed back to Nov. 5-15, 2020.

9:35 a.m. — City of San Antonio confirms first travel-related COVID-19 case

The patient is in stable condition and is in self-quarantine along with their family members, according to San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced that public gatherings of more than 500 people are prohibited for the next week as a public health emergency is declared. Metro Health is also recommending people who are "high risk" to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people unless necessary. Being high risk includes people who are 65 or older, pregnant or have illnesses. 

Declaration of Public Health Emergency by Texas Public Radio on Scribd

8:45 a.m. Awaiting press conferences from city and Fiesta Commission

The city, Metro Health and the Fiesta Commission all plan to update the public on the current situation in San Antonio and on plans for Fiesta.

8:38 a.m. — Renew driver's licenses online

The Texas Department of Transportation urges individuals to renew their driver's licenses online, if possible. DPS is taking precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19 by reducing the number of people who show up in person at driver's license offices.

Find out if you're eligible to renew your driver's license or ID card online at Texas.gov. DPS has also increased its sanitation practices at its offices, and it provides hand sanitizer to customers.

Thursday, March 12

Changes to area college schedules

These colleges have extended spring break by an extra week to give faculty time to move courses online.

University of Texas at San Antonio
Texas A&M-San Antonio
Alamo Colleges District
Trinity
Our Lady of the Lake

St. Mary’s University is also extending spring break an extra week, but it has not yet decided whether it will move classes online.

Trinity University is also closing on campus-housing beginning Monday, March 16th. Trinity says “special considerations will be made for students who cannot return home”

UTSA, Texas A&M, St. Mary’s, OLLU and the Alamo Colleges are keeping their campuses open to allow students to access dorms, libraries and computer labs.

Tuesday, March 10

Social distancing

San Antonio Metro Health offers advice on social distancing. Learn more about it here.

Here are six ways to practice social distancing:

1. Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
2. Clean and disinfect your home regularly, including routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
3. Keep a six-foot distance from others in public settings.
4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
5. Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places like elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand if you must touch something.
6. Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places and avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.

Local COVID-19 testing

Metro Health's advice:

1. If you are feeling sick, call your primary care physician’s office before going in.
2. If you do not have a primary care physician, visit any urgent care or walk-in clinic in the community.
3. Community physicians and other clinical providers have access to CDC protocols to determine whether or not patients qualify for COVID-19 testing.
4. Local testing for COVID-19 is currently available only by sending samples to the CDC, in coordination with Metro Health and the CDC.
5. People who do not have CDC-defined symptoms and exposure history will not be offered testing for COVID-19.
6. If you need additional information call the Metro Health hotline at 210-207-5779. (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

How do people become infected with COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that it is most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing;
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

What are the symptoms?

Fever
Cough
Shortness of breath

At this time, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Clarification: The physician resident diagnosed with COVID-19 was the fourth confirmed case in San Antonio.

This is a developing story. This post will be updated.