WATCH: Health officials discuss differences in COVID-19 testing and their importance to fight pandemic

Coronavirus update from San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Wolff 4/22/20

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s Note: Watch the entire briefing in the video player above. Newsletter recipients can click here to access the video.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff updated the community about the local response to COVID-19 in their daily briefing Wednesday night.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Nirenberg reported 1,126 COVID-19 cases and 39 deaths in Bexar County, as of Wednesday. He said 79 patients are in the hospital, 38 are in intensive care, 22 are on ventilators and 350 have recovered. The county has 81% of ventilators available and 38% of staffed beds available.
  • Nirenberg emphasized that the use of face coverings for people over the age of 10 is now mandatory in Bexar County and San Antonio.
  • Nirenberg said the City Council will vote on a measure for an emergency assistance fund that has $15.8 million tomorrow. He said the city is working to add $10 million more through various fund balances. He also said the funds would go toward emergency rental assistance or to those who need emergency assistance for groceries or other essentials.
  • Wolff discussed seeing more people out in the community. He said the city and county will start to adapt once Gov. Greg Abbott makes more announcements about when things will reopen in the state. More businesses are expected to open by Friday.
  • Dr. Dawn Emerick, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, explained the types of tests available for COVID-19. She said the viral test, or the nasal swab used in Metro Health’s testing sites, is to diagnose if a person has COVID-19. She said those results are reportable from labs to Metro Health. Residents who have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 should take the viral test, Emerick said.
  • Emerick said antibody tests use a blood prick to determine whether a patient has had COVID-19 before. She said residents want to be cautious about these tests, as there are 90 in the market but only four have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Three of the four approved were just given the green light this past weekend, Emerick said.
  • Emerick said antibody tests are not diagnostic tests like the viral tests. They are used to determine if a person has developed antibodies to the virus. Out of the 90 tests in the market, including the four approved by the FDA, none have results that can be reported to Metro Health for the daily COVID-19 count. “The antibody testing is just not ready for primetime yet,” Emerick said.
  • Emerick said one popup testing site in the area that is not affiliated with Metro Health is selling the antibody test for about $150. She said if a person is going to pay for a test, it should be a viral test.
  • Emerick said Metro Health may soon be working to perform randomized control tests to study the asymptomatic population. A plan is expected sometime next week, she said. Currently, Metro Health is taking in about 1,250 to 1,300 tests per day, she said, but the county still needs more materials to test more people.
  • Metro Health is working to canvass areas where there is more need for testing, Emerick said.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.

ADDENDUM TO STAY HOME, WORK SAFE ORDER (Newsletter subscribers, click here to view.)


About the Author

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.

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