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COVID-19 Hospitalizations Reach 9,000 In Texas For First Time Since July; San Antonio Hospitals Slow Transfer Admissions

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In addition to COVID-19 case numbers, Texas Public Radio is updating information on 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.

San Antonio

Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported 5 new coronavirus-related deaths in the San Antonio area on Tuesday. There have been 1,362 in total.

There were 452 new cases of the coronavirus reported on Tuesday, following 1,127 on Monday, 888 on Sunday and 669 on Saturday. On average, the area has seen 736 new cases daily in the past week.

Testing in San Antonio has increased since the Thanksgiving holiday. Though there was a slight dip in testing on Monday, Nirenberg reported a high-level of testing on Tuesday, at 5,618 tests at public labs.

The area’s positivity rate has dropped slightly to 9.2%, but Nirenberg said that is most likely due to more asymptomatic people getting tested in advance of Thanksgiving celebrations. Health officials say that the area will not see the effects of the Thanksgiving holiday for at least two weeks.

Hospitalizations and the severity of cases in local hospitals have been steadily rising over the past few weeks. On Monday, there were 593 patients hospitalized in San Antonio (+6). That includes 76 from El Paso, where hospitals are reaching capacity.

Dr. Junda Woo, Medical Director for San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District, said she has noticed local hospitals slow their admissions of non-local patients in anticipation of a higher demand. The El Paso patients currently make up about 13% of all COVID-related admissions.

There are 188 patients in intensive care (+6) and 104 on ventilators (+5). Staffed bed and ventilator capacity has dropped 2%, with 12% and 66% available respectively.

Woo said the delivery of a vaccine is complicated by the number of possible vaccine brands.

“There are two vaccines up for approval and there could be as many as six and you can’t mix and match them. Five of them require a second dose,” she said.

Patients will have to be tracked in a computer system that records the brand they received first and when they should receive a second dose. The time period between doses varies by brand.

If approved by the federal government without delay, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could arrive as early as late December locally and be given to first responders and front line medical workers.

A critical blood shortage in San Antonio continues. The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has about a 3 day supply of blood remaining and is working to get that up to a 7 day supply.

“The inventory of type O blood which is used in emergencies is still critical at only a 1 day supply. This means that the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center can immediately only fill about half of the orders hospitals place for type O blood which essentially puts trauma patients at risk,” Nirenberg said on Monday.

Blood donors are encouraged to donate as soon as possible. You can schedule an appointment at southtexasblood.org.

The San Antonio Food Bank is also in need of donations and volunteers. CEO and President Eric Cooper said the food bank was able to meet most of the demand for the Thanksgiving holiday without too much rationing.

“I’m always anxious about our inventory and managing how quickly it’s coming in and how fast it’s going out,” Cooper said. “We were able to make sure November’s holiday was taken care of. Now, as we move into December’s holidays, we’re working it. I’m anticipating San Antonio coming through. They always have.”

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Texas

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 1,184,000 cases since March. Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, El Paso and Bexar counties were among those consistently reporting the most cases.

Officials also reported more than 9,000 patients with COVID-19 in Texas hospitals. More than 21,500 people have died in the state.

Statewide hospitalizations hit 9,000 for the first time since July. There were also 16,000 new cases reported on Tuesday.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Laredo are at their highest levels since August. Intensive care units are completely full.

As COVID-19 cases continue surging in Texas, health officials warn colder temperatures could make the situation worse.

“Getting cold isn’t a huge advantage to the virus in terms of the temperature. But, what is a huge advantage to the virus is instead of us socializing outdoors, people will be socializing indoors. And, so, that goes back to the idea, you really can’t be socializing with folks outside your bubble, indoors,” said Doctor David Persse, Chief Medical Officer for the City of Houston.

A recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force says Texas is facing a "full resurgence" of COVID-19 and urges the state to take more steps to reduce its spread.

Find the latest national and international updates on COVID-19 from NPR's live blog.