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April 7-13: Nursing Home Deaths Climb As San Antonio Area Confirms Almost 800 COVID-19 Cases

This Post is Archived: Find the newest information on COVID-19 in San Antonio at the links below.

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. 
Other NPR stations that are part of The Texas Newsroom are also live-blogging, including Houston Public Media,  KERA in Dallas and KUT in Austin. 
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, April 13

6:15 p.m. — 794 confirmed cases in San Antonio area

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said there are now 794 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio area.

There are 33 reported deaths related to COVID-19, and 16 of those include residents of the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center where there is an outbreak.

6 p.m. — Watch today's daily briefing

1 p.m. — Comal County reports 6 deaths, 38 cases

Comal County officials said there are now six deaths related to COVID-19, and 38 confirmed cases in the area.

The most recent two deaths were men in their 80s who had been hospitalized in San Antonio; one from Bulverde died Saturday, and one from south of Canyon Lake died Sunday.

“Our hearts go out to their loved ones, who have suffered an irreplaceable loss,” said County Judge Sherman Krause. “The best thing all of us can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives is to stay home and maintain social distancing.”

12 p.m. — Watch Mayor Nirenberg's children town hall 

Sunday, April 12

6:13 p.m. — Mayor Nirenberg, Judge Wolff hold daily COVID-19 briefing

Metro Health officials reported 49 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County on Sunday, bringing the total to 772.  The death toll rose by three more to 30. And 135 people have recovered. 

One of the new deaths were residents at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the site of a large outbreak. The total deaths related to that center are now at 15.

Community spread and close contact cases far outpace other causes of the illness.

Metro health reports hundreds are being tested each day now and the overwhelming majority have come back negative.   

5:13 p.m. — Gov. Abbott extends disaster declaration

Gov. Greg Abbott extended his disaster declaration for all Texas counties on Sunday in response to COVID-19.

He originally issued the declaration, which enables the state to secure resources to mitigate the spread of the disease, on March 13. 

“By extending my Disaster Declaration, we are ensuring the state of Texas continues to have adequate resources and capabilities to support our communities and protect public health,” Abbott said in a written statement. 

The proclamation authorizes “the use of all available resources of state government and political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster.” It also allows the governor to suspend state agency orders or rules that “prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with this disaster.”

The governor said he urges “all Texans to continue practicing social distancing and abide by the guidelines laid out by the CDC and my Executive Orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Saturday, April 11

8:30 p.m. — Second county jail inmate tests positive

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said a second inmate in the county adult detention center tested positive for COVID-19.

“He’s a capital murder suspect," Wolff explained. "He’s housed alone since March the 12th. Now he’s in a negative pressure cell. We’ll be tracing his contacts.”

Wolff said inmates who show any signs of the illness are required to wear masks. They are placed in smaller groups, and their temperatures are taken every day.

8:15 p.m. — City/county officials report testing going well

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said local COVID-19 testing is running efficiently and is available to those who need it.

Nirenberg said around 400 tests are conducted every day, not including private labs. Wolff said a local lab returned results much faster than the federal government was doing.

“The only problem we had before was not the testing, but was the long period of time for the lab to finish the work," he explained. "Quest was doing it, the federal program, taking five, six, seven, eight, nine days. I believe it's 24 hours now ... to turn around with our local lab.”

The major testing site for Metro Health continues to be Freeman Coliseum.

8:00 p.m. — New Army medics help response effort, directly or indirectly

More than sixty newly-minted Army medics out of Fort Sam Houston headed to their first assignments late last week. But they left under unusual circumstances: With just a few days notice ... and under special precautions to protect them against coronavirus.

Many of the soldiers went to units to back-fill people who had deployed in support of the COVID-19 mission. Some will soon find themselves on the front lines working against the disease.

The departing trainees, many of whom arrived late last year for the 16-week combat medic course, have been in a so-called “protective bubble” in the training environment.

Some of the cohort stayed in Texas at Fort Hood or Fort Bliss. Others went as far afield as North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky.

7:00 p.m. — 723 positive cases / 27 deaths / 119 recovered

Metro Health officials reported Saturday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County stood at 723. The local death toll rose by three to 27.

Two of the most recent deaths were connected to Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, site of a large outbreak. A total of 14 residents from that facility have now died.

Of the 723 positive cases, 119 people have recovered.

The number of community spread cases and close contact cases are now three times the number of travel related cases.

Metro Health reports around 7,000 people have now been tested, the vast majority coming back negative. County Judge Nelson Wolff says results from labs are coming back quicker too.

Residents may call 3-1-1 for testing information.

5 p.m. — Army North ready to help with food distribution efforts

U.S. Army North, headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, is supporting FEMA’s response to coronavirus. So far it’s helped with logistical and medical requests around the country — including hard-hit areas like New York and Seattle.

But after some 10,000 people showed up at the San Antonio Food Bank this week, some are asking whether military help is needed here too.

In a briefing Saturday, Army North Commander Laura Richardson said no local requests for assistance had come through -- yet. But she acknowledged that there could be a need.

"And quite honestly, I could see maybe on that case that transportation resources would probably be needed," she said. "We have a lot of trucks in the United States military [that could be used if] that were to be the case."

Richardson added that Army North was ready to handle any incoming requests.

4 p.m. — City of San Antonio projects ‘catastrophic’ revenue loss

The City of San Antonio’s Stay Home Work Safe orders will run until at least April 30 after the city council approved their extension in a 10-1 vote Thursday amid grim projections about the budget. 

The updated order included requirements that workers in nursing homes are not allowed to take shifts at multiple facilities, which officials hope will help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Due to a loss in revenue from the hotel occupancy tax, the city is cutting programs and temporarily furloughing employees in multiple departments.

The city council also approved moving the city’s upcoming Pre-K 4 SA reauthorization to November.

Learn more about the new order, the budget shortfall, and plans for Pre-K 4 SA here.

3 p.m. — Web site for essential workers who need childcare

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new online portal Friday to help essential workers in Texas find child care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says it’s a project of the Texas Frontline Child Care Task Force, which includes a number of state agencies.

“The portal that they established features a map of licensed health care centers to help essential workers find a provider close to their home or where they work," he explained.

There's more information at FrontlineChildCare.Texas.gov.

2 p.m. — Residents advised to not gather for Easter

City and county officials urge residents to not host activities outside their immediate households this Easter weekend.

Residents are encouraged to connect with friends and family by phone or virtually. That's what County Judge Nelson Wolff plans to do.

"We're going to Zoom," he said on Friday, referring to the web video conference service. "My son's gong to be the host of it -- Matthew Wolff. All of us are going to get on Zoom, and we're going to celebrate Easter together but we're not going to jeopardize each other's lives."

City and county parks, parks facilities and dog parks are closed this weekend through 5 a.m. Monday. However, greenway trails remain open for running, walking and cycling.

1:30 p.m. — New round of blood drives this week

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is hosting several blood drives at locations that allow for proper social distancing.

Drives are scheduled Monday, April 13, and Tuesday, April 14, at Harlan High School on the Far West Side, Also on Tuesday, another drive will take place at The Garage at The Pearl.

Here are the next set of blood drives in the coming days:

  • Wednesday, April 15, at Floresville High School in Floresville
  • Thursday, April 16, at Pedrotti's Ranch in Helotes
  • Friday, April 17, at Holmes High School on Ingram on the Northwest Side
  • Saturday, April 18, at Miltown Historic District in New Braunfels
  • Sunday, April 19, at MacArthur Park Church of Christ off Loop 410 on the Northeast Side
  • Monday & Tuesday, April 20 & 21, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton on Landmark Parkway on the Far Northwest Side.
  • Wednesday & Thursday, April 22 & 23, at the City of Schertz Community Center

Donors may attend only by appointment. Sign up at SouthTexasBlood.org.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has designated blood donation as an essential city function. Donors are exempt from the Stay Home, Work Safe order.

Learn more about how you can help others at TPR's special charity blog.

12:30 p.m. — Deputies from same cadet class test positive

Thirteen Bexar County Sheriff's deputies have tested positive for COVID-19. The deputies are all from a recently-graduated detention cadet class.

The class was placed on leave Sunday, April 5, after a graduate tested positive for the coronavirus. Another deputy from the class tested positive Tuesday. Eleven other deputies were confirmed to have the virus on Friday.

The cases are believed to have resulted from close contact.

The sheriff's office said in a statement that additional detention staff and the inmate population are at low risk of contracting COVID-19.

Fourteen deputies in all have tested positive for COVID-19. An inmate at the Bexar County Jail was confirmed to have the virus earlier this week.

12 p.m. — County judge wants change to food distribution process

Scenes of long lines of vehicles at a Trader’s Village for a recent San Antonio Food Bank drive thru had Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff asking for changes to emergency food distribution during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The food bank served 10,000 residents at the drive thru in a single day.

Wolff said food distribution needs to be decentralized to avoid massive lines. He said grocery stores would be good for a multiple location system of food distribution.

“The last time, I heard there was more than 100,000 people on what we referred to as food stamps before," he said. "And I know unemployment benefits are starting to come in. So we need a system where it’s done in stores, rather than have a person drive a car and sit for ... two and half, three, four hours to get in."

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said a city team focused on food and shelter needs is looking into the issue.

11 a.m. — County jail inmate has COVID-19

A Bexar County inmate was diagnosed with COVID-19 this week.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the sheriff's department is doing what it can to keep the inmate population safe.

"The most vulnerable ones in there that show any signs," he said, "we're separating them into smaller groups."

He added that these inmates are required to wear masks, and their temperatures are taken every day.

Also, 13 sheriff's detention deputies were diagnosed with COVID-19 this week. They were all from the same graduating cadet class.

10:15 a.m. — Hotline for the homeless

The City of San Antonio launched a Homeless Connections Hotline to assist people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

Callers can receive counseling and education regarding available resources.

The hotline is a collaboration between the city's Department of Human Services, the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, and other homeless service providers.

The hotline is 210-207-1799. Community members can also seek assistance for themselves or others by email HomelessOutreach@sanantonio.gov.

9:30 a.m. — County commissioner unhappy with isolation location

County Commissioner Tommy Calvert opposed the selection of an East Side nursing care facility as a place where future COVID-19 nursing home patients could be sent to isolate.

The River City Care Center on Nolan Street is one of two locations selected by nursing home operators.

The other is the Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare on the far west side off of Highway 151.

Calvert said the River City facility sits within arm length of residents' homes and to a mobile homeless population.

County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg addressed the issue Friday. Nirenberg said the River City Care Center might not see any patients.

"The judge and I both believe that the Westover Hills (location) is a better facility and shoud be the first to be used," he said. "But at this point, there is nobody in either one of them."

The city said residents from the facilities have been moved to other facilities.

Friday, April 10

7:40 p.m. — 665 cases / 24 deaths / 92 recovered

Metro Health officials reported the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County stood at 665 on Friday, an increase of 50 cases in a day. The local death toll rose by two to 24.

The two most recent deaths were connected to Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, site of a large outbreak. A total of 12 residents from that facility have now died.

Of the 665 positive cases, 92 people have completely recovered.

The number of community spread cases and close contact cases are now three times the number of travel related cases.

Metro Health reported around 6,400 people have been tested with 89% coming back as negative.

5:55 p.m. -- Two more deaths from Southeast Nursing

San Antonio health officials announced two more residents at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. That brought the death toll from the Southeast facility to 12 and the overall toll in the county to 24.

The statement explained that both patients had underlying medical conditions. The white man and the Hispanic woman were both in their 80s.

Also on Friday, the two largest nursing home operators in San Antonio, Creative Solutions in Healthcare and Keystone Care, have identified two locations where COVID-19-positive residents from any nursing home in the region could be taken to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

Keystone Care has identified Westover Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare. Creative Solutions in Healthcare volunteered the River City Care Center on Nolan Street.

Residents from these facilities have been moved to other facilities in the area, so that the centers are available to serve as a place to care for nursing home residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospital care.

No sick residents have been moved to either facility, and there is not a need to move anyone at this time. There are no known localized outbreaks at long-term care facilities other than the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

2 p.m. — Bexar County Jail inmate tests positive for COVID-19

The inmate, who has been in the Sheriff’s Office custody since March 11 for a misdemeanor family violence charge, is the first at the jail to test positive.

On Thursday, April 9, the man reported feeling shortness of breath and upon further medical evaluation had a fever over 100 degrees. He was tested and placed in a negative pressure cell. 

At this time, it is undetermined how the detainee contracted the illness. Two living units at the Adult Detention Center have been placed on lockdown while inmates undergo medical observation.

Thursday, April 9

8 p.m. — 615 cases confirmed in San Antonio

Mayor Ron Nirenberg confirmed there are now 615 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio area.

There were also two more deaths reported, bringing the total to 22.

A man in his 50s and a woman in her 60s died. They both had underlying health conditions, the mayor said.

Made with Flourish

6:15 p.m. — Watch today's daily COVID-19 briefing

6 p.m. — TWC calls for childcare assistance

The Texas Workforce Commission has directed Workforce Solutions Alamo to prioritize emergency childcare assistance for essential workers.

Healthcare workers, first responders, and employees at grocery stores, banks, gas stations, restaurants and food delivery companies are among those eligible.

Individuals in need of childcare can learn more at workforcealamo.org.

10:40 a.m. — Domestic violence calls spike

The City of San Antonio is making cuts to portions of its budget amid the coronavirus crisis.

But San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says he wants to preserve domestic violence protections recently enacted by the city and Bexar County.

The city has allocated $1 million to domestic violence prevention initiatives for the current fiscal year, and Nirenberg says that funding will stay.

“There’s no circumstance where the need for domestic violence services is going to be reduced in a crisis so we’re going to figure out a way to make sure that those services are intact – we have to – because there’s such a level of need out there that we can anticipate,” he said.

Nirenberg added there has been an 18% spike in domestic violence calls for service to police in the last week, in part because more families are at home during the outbreak.

During Wednesday's daily COVID-19 briefing, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said there have been 50 requests for family violence protective orders in the last week.

Wednesday, April 8

7 p.m. — Cases jump to 554 

There are now 554 cases of COVID-19 in the San Antonio area, and 20 deaths. 

Made with Flourish

6:13 p.m. — Watch the city's daily COVID-19 briefing

2:45 p.m. — City of San Antonio furloughs 270 employees

Officials with the City of San Antonio announced approximately 270 employees will be furloughed. The employees affected work at the Convention Center, Alamodome and other departments funded by the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT). Minimum staff levels will be maintained for the maintenance and security of the Convention Center and Alamodome according to a statement.

HOT revenues to the City of San Antonio have declined by tens of millions of dollars as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the statement said.

“These employees are valued members of our team, but with little to no events scheduled for several months, the revenue shortfalls are so significant that we have to take steps now to put us in a position to ramp up operations again when the public health crisis subsides,” City Manager Erik Walsh wrote.

These employees will receive their regular pay from April 9 to April 22.  The furloughs are effective on April 23 and are expected to last through July 31, unless otherwise adjusted. Those furloughed will remain employees of the City of San Antonio, and during the furlough, they will continue to receive healthcare coverage. The City will mass file for unemployment insurance benefits for all of the furloughed employees to facilitate the process.

12:30 p.m. — 4 San Antonio police officers test positive for COVID-19 

A fourth San Antonio police officer tested positive for COVID-19, according to city officials.

The officer is a sergeant and has served the department for 24 years. He is recovering at home and we wish him a speedy recovery. He came into contact with one individual at the workplace and that individual was contacted and placed on a 14-day quarantine.12:30 p.m. — 2 more Southeast nursing home residents die

12:30 p.m. — Two more Southeast nursing home residents die

Two more residents of the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center died, according to officials. This brings the total deaths of the facility to 10.

Overall there are now 20 deaths related to COVID-19 in the San Antonio area.

Tuesday, April 7

7:30 p.m. — Metro Health releases race/ethnicity data 

Made with Flourish

6:15 p.m. — Watch today's daily COVID-19 briefing

2:25 p.m. — Death toll at nursing home reaches 8

Metro Health was notified by the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of five more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total number from the facility to eight. Previously, only three deaths were reported to Metro Health. Last weekend, Metro Health was made aware of a fourth death of a male in his 70s whose COVID-19 test was inconclusive, according to a statement from city officials

| Related: COVID-19 Outbreak At San Antonio Nursing Home |

“After media interviews by family members suggested there were additional deaths, Metro Health requested that Southeast provide a detailed accounting of all deaths in recent days,” the statement said.

The information provided shows that five more residents died at the nursing home between Sunday and Tuesday, April 7.

The deaths were all of residents 70 years or older, both male and female, who were asymptomatic but had positive tests for the virus.

One additional death, not related to nursing home, brings the total in the San Antonio area to 18.

1 p.m. — City, county parks closed on Easter weekend

San Antonio and Bexar County officials announced all parks will be closed on Easter weekend.

All County parks and park amenities will be closed to the public effective at 9 p.m. this Friday through 9 a.m. Monday.

All San Antonio City parks, dog parks and park amenities will also be closed.

During the Easter weekend, all outdoor activities within City and County parks are prohibited, with the exception of use of trails such as the City’s Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail system.

Monday, April 6

6:45 p.m. — 456 confirmed cases / 12 deaths / 77 people recovered

The San Antonio Metro Health Department reported 46 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Bexar County on Monday. The death toll remained the same at 12. The number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 456. Of those cases, 77 have now completely recovered. Community spread and close contact cases are by far the lead causes of local cases. Check out the latest numbers — tests administered, cases broken down by zip code, recoveries, deaths —and much more data, plus advice on how to keep yourself safe, at the Metro Health website.

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6:20 p.m. — Metro Health advises public to cover mouths in public

6:15 p.m. — Watch the daily briefing here

5:10 p.m. — Texas National Guard deploys to help response

Over 500 Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen have deployed to support the COVID-19 response in Texas.

Starting April 5, service members from the Texas National Guard will be assigned to the North Texas Food Bank in Plano to assist with meeting overwhelming demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit Courtesy North Texas Food Bank
Starting April 5, service members from the Texas National Guard will be assigned to the North Texas Food Bank in Plano to assist with meeting overwhelming demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  

Adjutant General Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department said Gov. Abbott gave them three missions.

"One of those is to assist communities with the drive through testing," she explained. "Also assist with making bed capacity where needed. And then the last one is also be sure that commodities that need to be sent across the state, such as PPE, are also delivered."

Norris said the Guard also identified locations where they’ll build temporary COVID-19 field hospitals. Sites in Austin, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley have been selected.

Norris added that the new mission would not interfere with Guard operations along the southwest border.

"So those soldiers and airmen will continue to do the job that they're assigned as long as needed," she said. "Also, they've been given some additional protective equipment so they can stay safe and healthy and continue the job in the southwest border."

As of early March, about 1,700 National Guard troops were stationed along the Texas-Mexico border. It was unclear how many of those were from Texas versus other states.

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