COVID-19 Live Blog: San Antonio, Bexar County To Issue Stay-At-Home Order | Texas Public Radio

COVID-19 Live Blog: San Antonio, Bexar County To Issue Stay-At-Home Order

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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.

See more reporting on COVID-19 here.

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, March 23

2 p.mSan 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 disaster@leo.gov.

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.

Mi Tierra sold much of its food because its dining hall had to close to the public.
Credit Nathan Cone | Texas Public Radio

Restaurant owners may also add their establishments to the list.

Businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak may find assistance from Culinaria Emergency Relief Fund, San Antonio Tip Jar, Bartender Emergency Assistance Program and Dining Bonds Initiative.

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.

Credit REUTERS / REUTERS

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

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. 

This post will be updated.