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New COVID-19 Health Transition Team to develop plan to move city, county out of social distancing

Team will develop strategies for reopening economy

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Mayor Ron Nuremberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Thursday announced the creation of what they’re calling the COVID-19 Health Transition Team.

The team is made up of health experts tasked with developing a plan to move the city and county out of social distancing phase.

There are several health professionals leading the team, including Dr. Junda Woo, medical director for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

“I think the idea is to look at what we know and get expert opinion because we don’t have a whole lot of evidence at this point,” Woo said.

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Nirenberg said Woo headed the response to the outbreak at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and is an expert in contact tracing.

“The idea is what’s the best way to reopen while minimizing the risk of more infections,” Woo said.

Nirenberg said city and county officials are looking for guidance as they make decisions moving forward.

“How do we relieve some of the social distancing or go back into it based on what protocols are needed. What type of testing capacity do we need? How are we isolating folks that might turn up sick? And ensuring we are not making these decision arbitrarily, but we are doing so to prevent another wave of infection occurring,” Nirenber said.

The team hopes to develop a health transition plan by April 27.

“A lot of what we have been doing now is doing crisis response, but there’s been a national conversation now about when does the economy open back up? When can businesses start running? And we know that we can’t do that arbitrarily, we can’t do that carelessly,” Nirenberg said.

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Dr. Barbara Taylor, associate professor of infectious diseases at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, will be the team leader.

“I am honored to have been asked to lead the COVID-19 Health Transition Team for San Antonio and Bexar County," she said in a statement. "Several of my colleagues from UT Health San Antonio and I will work alongside leaders from University Health System, MetroHealth and other health institutions. We look forward to using our combined expertise and the best science available to benefit the health of our community.”

Other team members include:

  • Dr. Ruth Berggren, UT Health San Antonio infectious disease specialist
  • Dr. Bryan Alsip, University Health System Chief Medical Officer
  • Dr. Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, public health consultant
  • Dr. Tom Patterson, Chair of Infectious Disease, UT Health Science Center
  • Dr. Carrie DeWitt, group manager and infectious disease physician
  • Dr. Jason Morrow, Medical Director of Inpatient Palliative Care Services at UHS
  • Dr. Dawn Emerick, City of San Antonio Metro Health Director

San Antonio City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval will serve as the City Council’s liaison and Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez will be the liaison for Commissioners Court.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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