Omicron variant taking over Bexar County COVID-19 cases

According to the UT Health San Antonio Lab, more of the tests they’re sequencing are coming back as omicron variant.

SAN ANTONIO – With COVID cases climbing, doctors say we are currently in another surge.

Metro Health’s data is on hold during the holiday’s but the state is relaying some data for Bexar County.

On Monday, 957 probable or confirmed cases were reported. Tuesday, that number dropped to 828; a slight decrease but still a high number.

“We are extremely busy right now with the increase in testing that we’re seeing with the current surge,” Dr. Marjorie David, director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio said.

Between clinical COVID tests and genome sequencing, the workload at UT Health San Antonio Lab is increasing.

Dr. David and her team are seeing a change, delta once dominant is now being replaced by the quickly spreading omicron variant.

“The important number is the proportion of positive cases that are Omicron. And as early as the 17th we had 25% omicron,” Dr. David said.

In a given week, they’re sequencing 100 tests from Metro Health, University Health, and UT Health San Antonio.

Dr. David and her team are focusing on the percentage of omicron and not the total number of Omicron because they’re not able to sequence every positive test in the county.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, it’s the same statewide.

The week of December 11th, omicron accounted for 24.8% of cases, a week later it nearly quadrupled to 84.9% of COVID cases.

“Expect that we have currently at this point in time, 90 to 100 percent omicron in Bexar county,” Dr. David said.

The lab is expecting to see that reflected in their results in the coming weeks. From start to finish, the sequencing process takes about two weeks to get results.

“Omicron can double in proportion so very, very quickly that we’re not able to keep up with the day-to-day data of what’s happening in real time,” Dr. David said.

Right now, Metro Health is only reporting seven cases of omicron in Bexar County.

That number seems small but it’s relative when looking outward at other neighboring cities.

As of December 21st, Austin is only reporting three cases of omicron, they have to wait on results from the state lab.

The city of Houston is reporting 31 cases as of December 11th.

The Houston Health Department doesn’t keep a complete count of omicron cases, they’re similar to San Antonio and have a portion of their tests go through genome sequencing with Houston Methodist.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.