SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE, March 23, 2020: We are moving updates from this article into three other articles to best inform our readers.
For the latest updates on cases in San Antonio and Bexar County, click here.
For a county-by-county map of cases in Texas, click here.
For the latest information about cases from around the state, click here.
ORIGINAL: With at least 11 novel coronavirus cases reported in San Antonio as of Tuesday evening, city and health officials are hoping to keep the respiratory disease from spreading into the community.
Soon after the first travel-related case was confirmed on Friday morning, Mayor Ron Nirenberg quickly announced a state of emergency in San Antonio, barring gatherings of more than 500 people. Events planned over the weekend were canceled, Fiesta was postponed until November and several local churches livestreamed services to keep large crowds from congregating in person.
More restrictions are expected after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that gatherings of 50 people or more should be canceled for the next eight weeks and the Texas Education Commissioner said schools could be out through the duration of the school year.
As the number of COVID-19 cases grows across the country, federal officials are working with state and local officials to make testing more accessible.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that San Antonio is home to the state’s first drive-through testing facility, but it was later revealed the site was reserved for first responders and healthcare workers who meet the criteria for testing, meaning they are showing COVID-19 symptoms and have had a negative flu test.
Nirenberg and Abbott scheduled a news conference Monday at 2 p.m. Monday to provide updates on testing availability and the efforts in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus.
Here’s what we know.
Here are the latest case numbers in San Antonio:
- There are at least 11 reported COVID-19 cases in San Antonio. Four are travel-related, four are people who had close contact with another person with COVID-19, and three cases are still under investigation, officials said. The first case involved a flight from California, the second involved a trip to Japan, and the third involved a trip to Spain. The fourth travel-related case involves a University Health System medical resident. A fifth case was confirmed March 17. Metro Health officials have not yet released details about the remaining cases.
- USAA reported that 1 employee, who is out of the state, tested positive for the virus. The employee has not been on the San Antonio campus since March 6 and was not showing symptoms at that time. On Monday, University Health System confirmed that 1 doctor tested positive for the virus. The infection was travel-related, but it is unclear if it was one of the four previous cases already reported by San Antonio officials.
- 12 cases in San Antonio involve American evacuees who were under federal quarantine orders at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. 11 evacuees infected with the virus were originally flown in from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in February. Only 1 evacuee from the second cohort, flown in from the Grand Princess Cruise Ship in California in March, has tested positive for the virus. At least 3 of the evacuees infected by the virus in the first two groups have recovered and have been released.
- Roughly 380 people have been or are currently under federal quarantine orders at JBSA-Lackland. Currently, there are about 150 people isolated at JBSA-Lackland.
- More than 174,000 cases have been confirmed around on the world, including more than 63 in Texas. More than 77,000 have recovered from the virus, while the death toll peaked over 6,000 this week.
Travel-related cases reported in San Antonio
San Antonio officials reported the first COVID-19 case in the city outside of the group of quarantined evacuees on Friday. Since then, two other travel-related cases have been confirmed.
The most recent case was announced Sunday. Officials said the individual recently traveled to Spain.
“As testing capacity has increased, we are getting clearer and more rapid assessment of any potential occurrence of travel-related infections. This will continue to increase the effectiveness of our efforts to get our community through this pandemic safely,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a press release.
The second travel-related case was confirmed Saturday by health officials, involving a traveler with underlying health issues that recently returned from a visit to Japan. The patient is being treated at Methodist Hospital.
The first case, reported on Friday, involved a traveler who had recently flown to California.
There is no evidence of community spread at this time, officials said.
Schools, events canceled. Fiesta postponed until November.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg quickly announced a state of emergency in San Antonio, barring gatherings of more than 500 people. Events planned over the weekend were canceled, Fiesta was postponed until November and several local churches livestreamed services to keep large crowds from congregating in person.
School districts throughout the San Antonio area also canceled classes for a week following spring break. Superintendents plan to continue meeting about the issue and may extend that cancellation depending on the circumstances.
Originally scheduled for April, Fiesta was pushed to November.
The delay led to the cancellation of Oyster Bake this year, while the Battle of Flowers Parade is still on for Nov. 13.
Several other large events across the city have been canceled.
Like other major cities across the country, San Antonio is working on making COVID-19 testing more available and accessible to people who are showing symptoms of the new virus.
Only those who meet certain criteria for symptoms and possible exposure history will be tested, health officials said. It’s unclear exactly how many tests San Antonio has administered.
Insurers have committed to waiving costs related to coronavirus testing, and the U.S. House passed a measure to provide free testing. The deal will head to the Senate for a vote before it is signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Cruise ship passengers in San Antonio on quarantine orders
After days of being idle in the waters of northern California, Grand Princess cruise ship docked Monday at the Port of Oakland. Roughly 3,500 passengers are on board and awaiting their turn to leave the ship, where roughly 20 cases were reported.
Of those passengers, 149 were flown to JBSA-Lackland. The majority of those passengers are Texans, while non-Texan residents are expected to be moved closer to their home state.
Though the passengers were deemed to be asymptomatic, one of them was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend. The patient was taken to a “Texas health care facility,” but federal officials denied to release specific details about it.
Previously, more than 230 people had been quarantined at Lackland. Those people were flown back into the country from Wuhan, China, where the virus first spread, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. Eleven of those evacuees were diagnosed with the virus and taken into isolation.
Why was JBSA-Lackland chosen to hold coronavirus evacuees?
When KSAT asked officials at Lackland why the base was chosen as a quarantine site, they said the Department of Defense chose it because it has the resources required to meet the needs of this effort.
“JBSA has some of the largest lodging capacity in the DOD, including the most single rooms without shared bathrooms, space to isolate quarantined passengers from the rest of the installation and local population, and easy access to world-class medical facilities in the San Antonio community,” officials said in a statement to KSAT.
Officials said Lackland has a flight line with secured boundaries that are capable of receiving large commuter aircraft.
What is the coronavirus?
The coronavirus actually refers to a family of viruses. The name comes from the shape of the virus, which has little spikes coming out of its edges, like a sun’s corona. But this new strain, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, is one that hasn’t been recognized before.
Health officials believe that the virus likely started in animals before it was spread to humans.
Its symptoms are similar to the flu. A minor case would leave someone with sneezing, coughing, fever and aches. More extreme cases are similar to pneumonia and could be fatal.
Precautions you can take
Like preventing the flu, health officials say residents should wash their hands often, and disinfect surfaces and commonly used countertops. Disinfectants have proved effective in killing the virus.
People who are healthy should not wear face masks or stockpile them.
Those who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms should wear the N95 respirator mask, which is tighter fitting than standard surgical masks and filter out airborne particles.
As concern grows over the spread of the virus, H-E-B announced that stores are limiting the number of multiple products customers can buy.
“H-E-B is committed to having products available to customers who need them,” an H-E-B public affairs representative said. “Limits are part of H-E-B being prepared and ensuring our customers are able to find what they need.”
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that almost all travel from Europe to the United States will be suspended for 30 days.
Trump called the measure the “most aggressive and comprehensive effort to combat a virus.”
The U.S. Department of Defense posted an FAQ to help people understand the travel restrictions better.
The State Department has also issued travel advisories to the countries hit hardest by COVID-19. The State Department continuously update travel advisories on its Twitter page.
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