They are also noted that a majority of people who have contracted the virus in recent months were infected after prolonged contact with a person that had COVID-19 — not through community transmission or travel.
“The only safe gatherings that should be conducted right now are with people in your household,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the daily city-county briefing about the virus. “Expanding that circle increases the risk that you or a member of your household will contract the virus.”
The mayor’s plea for people to stay home comes as coronavirus infections continue to spread in Bexar County, with 481 new cases and five more deaths reported Monday.
Since the start of the pandemic, 31,316 people are known to have contracted the virus. The local death toll now stands at 262, with nearly 100 of those deaths occurring in the last 10 days alone.
“I’m sorry to say we are still under a severe to critical risk of COVID-19 in our Bexar County community,” Nirenberg said. “Our case levels are still very high with hundreds and sometimes thousands of cases reported every day.”
As of Monday, 1,193 patients were being treated in San Antonio area hospitals, down six from Sunday. That left 11 percent of staffed beds available.
Of those hospitalized, 430 were in intensive care units and 294 were on ventilators to help them breathe. Both figures were down slightly from the day prior.
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Among the deaths announced Monday, two were Hispanic females in their 50s and 60s and three were Hispanic men in their 30s, 60s and 90s.
Three died at area hospitals. Two died at home.
“These are people,” Nirenberg said. “These are men, women and children of all ages, races and walks of life. Again, this virus does not discriminate. We should all do our part to protect each other.”
Anita Kurian, who leads the communicable disease division at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said the increase in children and teenagers contracted the virus has been rapid.
In late May, children and teenagers accounted for 5 percent of cases in Bexar County, local health data shows. By mid-July, that had more than doubled to 11 percent.
Two children between the ages of 10 and 17 have died of the virus.
“It does happen to young people,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, referring to early studies that suggested children did not contract or transmit the virus. “They need to understand that.”
On ExpressNews.com: Get the latest update on coronavirus and a tracking map of U.S. cases
Bexar County ranks third among Texas counties for active COVID-19 cases, but fifth for deaths. Hildago County in the Rio Grande Valley, where cases have surged in recent weeks, is fourth in deaths.
Nirenberg and Wolff said it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why cases are increasing.
As of July 11, 57 percent of people who contracted the virus were infected after prolonged contact with a person that had COVID-19. The remainder of cases were the result of spread in the community or, in a small number of cases, through travel.
“While it seems that the onset of these cases tends to be right around the July 4th weekend, there’s not a smoking gun with this,” Nirenberg said.
Wolff agreed. He also pinned the numbers on orders from Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibited local governments from instituting their own rules.
“We were stripped of our authority to demand masks and penalties, and everyone put their guard down,” Wolff said. “People gathered. They went to bars and other large settings.”
“We’re still in a terrible time here, trying to work our way out of it,” he added. “When the genie gets out of the bottle, it’s very very hard to put it back in.”
Emilie Eaton is a criminal justice reporter in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Emilie, become a subscriber. firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @emilieeaton