COVID-19 Live Blog: San Antonio Enacts Measures To Limit Community Spread | Texas Public Radio

COVID-19 Live Blog: San Antonio Enacts Measures To Limit Community Spread

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The statewide coronavirus hotline is 2-1-1, and San Antonio's Metro Health hotline is 210-207-5779.

Here's what we know...

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.