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. TPR is also providing live updates on the Rio Grande Valley.
Here's what we know ...
Saturday, May 16
6:30 p.m. — Ventilator usage decreases
Metro Health's data team has been working "24/7" according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and is taking part of this weekend off work. Assistant Director Jennifer Herriot said the team has worked for 115 days straight and this is their second day off work. Mother’s Day was the first. Because of that, there aren't new case numbers to report.
However, there is an update on testing numbers and ventilator usage. There have been 40,681 tests in the San Antonio area, and the number of patients on ventilators is down to 14. With no new deaths, Nirenberg said, the decrease in ventilator usage is a good indicator of a downward trend.
Director of Neighborhood and Housing Services Veronica Soto said that housing assistance is available for San Antonio residents who need help with rent or mortgage payments. So far there are 7,300 applicants requesting half of the available money. With new applications coming everyday, she expects they will hit 10,000 next week.
6 p.m. —Watch today's daily briefing
4 p.m. — City reactivates some committees
The San Antonio City Council will resume some committee meetings after suspending them at the start of the coronavirus crisis. Most of the committees will focus on getting the city ready for the post COVID-19 economy.
In March, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg suspended the council committees to focus full attention to the city’s pandemic response.
Council committees are used to refine most city ordinances and city policy before the full city council considers them.
In June, several of the council's committees will resume via video conference.
Nirenberg informed the council that he is recreating committees to focus on workforce, economic development, small business, technology, neighborhood services and community health.
An intergovernmental relations committee will be made up of members of the San Antonio city council members and Bexar County Commissioners Court.
Other committees, including public safety and transportation, will not meet again until further notice.
3 p.m. — SBA releases PPP loan forgiveness application
The Small Business Administration has released the Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application and detailed instructions for the application.
The form and instructions inform borrowers how to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans.
The SBA will also soon issue regulations and guidance to help borrowers as they complete their applications, and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities.
The form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers.
The documents released will help small businesses seek forgiveness at the conclusion of the eight week covered period, which begins with the disbursement of their loans.
More information on the program is available here.
2 p.m. — Vote-by-mail expansion on hold again
The Texas Supreme Court blocked a state appeals court decision to allow voters to claim lack of immunity to COVID-19 as a disability, and therefore qualify for a mail-in ballot.
Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the state Supreme Court was wrong to force voters to choose between their health and the right to vote.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday's decision by the court allowed his office to continue prosecution of voter fraud and issue guidance on mail-in ballots.
1 p.m. — HEROES Act moves forward
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on Friday.
The $3 trillion relief bill would address shortfalls in state and local revenues and include a new round of stimulus checks to taxpayers.
San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro said in a statement Friday that the HEROES Act would provide much-needed funding for San Antonio and Bexar County to prevent layoffs and support frontline workers.
He said the bill would provide stimulus payments to the 2.4 million Texans who were excluded in the previous round.
Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell called the bill a "seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities."
The White House has threatened a veto.
12 p.m. — Zoo will continue drive-thru tours through May 21
The San Antonio Zoo will extend its Drive-Thru Zoo experience through Thursday, May 21. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Proceeds go toward the care of the zoo's animals during the current closure.
San Antonio Zoo President & CEO Tim Morrow said they are still waiting for guidance from state and local governments on when to reopen the zoo to normal traffic.
The zoo has established an emergency fund at SAZoo.org/Emergency-Fund.
11 a.m. — Assistant city manager will leave in July
One of San Antonio’s assistant city managers assigned to oversee Metro Health’s pandemic response is resigning. Dr. Colleen Bridger will end her three year tenure with the city effective in July. Bridger said she will start her own consulting firm for social services agencies.
“Working with either organizations or non-profit organizations -- and they’re grappling with difficult challenges -- I would like to be a resource to them,” she explained.
Bridger helped coordinate the city’s plans for federal cruise ship evacuees as they arrived at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland.
Previously, as Metro Health director, Bridger oversaw the implementation of limiting tobacco purchases to people under 18. As assistant city manager, she was in charge of the city’s new domestic violence plan.
10:15 a.m. — Bexar County has lost 62 people to COVID-19
Bexar County’s COVID-19 cases are now at 2,120.
San Antonio Metro Health reported an increase of just under 80 new cases Friday night.
About half of those cases were in the Bexar County Jail, about 20 were from the community and the rest were from congregate settings like nursing homes.
The county reported three additional COVID-19 related deaths on Friday, bringing that total up to 62.
Statewide, Texas marked eight straight days of over 1,000 new coronavirus cases.
The total of new cases reached 1,347, and 56 deaths were confirmed Friday. So far, 1,272 people have died of coronavirus complications in Texas.
9 a.m. — NEISD and SAISD plan to reopen in August
Two of San Antonio’s Largest School Districts are preparing to reopen in August. The superintendents of Northeast ISD and San Antonio ISD will resume classes after this summer. But what that setting will look like was still under review. SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the district may consider hybrid attendance schedules.
“For example, if we have some children that come in a morning shift versus an afternoon shift or we have some children on a Monday and a Wednesday and others on a Tuesday and Thursday," he said, "if we were we required to do that I would love to work with our employers to figure out how do we help our parents manage that with work.”
NEISD superintendent Shaun Mika said his district would also make similar decisions. Both districts planned to offer distance learning for parents who did not want their children to return to school.
The superintendents added that they did not plan any big changes to staff. Mika said the district has not cut any teachers but what’s next is uncertain.
“I don’t anticipate cutting any teachers or anyone else for this year whatsoever," he explained, "but we have to begin preparing for probably what’s inevitable – some budget cutbacks once the state comptroller really lets us know what it’s going to look like.”
School districts are primarily funded through property taxes and the state.
8:30 a.m. — VIA continues fare relief
VIA Metropolitan Transit is extending its fare-relief period through Sunday, May 31. Fare collection will start up again on Monday, June 1.
VIA will continue its safety measures. That includes enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures, a maximum load of 16 passengers, the wearing of masks by all passengers 10 years of age and older, and operating on its Essential Service Schedule.
More details can be found at VIAinfo.net.
For more updates about how the overall business community has adjusted to the realities of the coronavirus crisis, follow TPR's special blog that is tracking the latest developments.
Friday, May 15
6:47 p.m. – A majority of new cases from congregate settings
Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported 2,120 total confirmed cases, up 79 from yesterday. Of the new cases, 22 are from the community, 44 from the Bexar County jail and two from other congregate settings. Thirteen cases have yet to be determined.
Roughly 50% of cases have recovered (1,071 total recoveries), and roughly 47% are still sick (987 people).
There have been three new deaths, bringing the total to 62.
In local hospitals, there are
- 70 people who have tested positive
- 16 under investigation
- 34 in intensive care
- 25 on ventilators
County Judge Nelson Wolff said there have been 326 total positive cases in the jail, most of which have been asymptomatic. Only 12 inmates are in the infirmary, and there are no cases from the jail in local hospitals.
NEISD Superintendent Sean Maika and SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez both spoke on what the fall semester will look like for students.
Both school districts plan to start the semester in August, but are working on ways to prioritize their students’ and faculty members’ healths, as well as include the city and state’s guidelines in their plans.
6:10 p.m. — Watch today's daily briefing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines
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