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Coronavirus update San Antonio, May 6: Officials discuss COVID-19 issues at Bexar County Jail, what’s being done to lower infections

Staffing issues continue at the jail, Salazar says

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. See the full video in the player above.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Nirenberg reported 1,761 COVID-19 cases and 53 deaths in Bexar County, as of Wednesday. Fifty-four new cases were confirmed at the Bexar County Jail and 30 in the community.
  • City officials also reported that 60 patients are hospitalized, 34 are in the intensive care unit and 21 are on ventilators.
  • Nirenberg talked about the Metropolitan Health District and San Antonio Fire Department’s effort to set up two new walkup testing sites. He said the tests are free, no appointment is needed and asymptomatic people can get tested.
  • Nirenberg said the new testing sites were added based on task force goals, which were to expand testing based off need in the community. He said the trouble isn’t capacity but demand.
  • Dr. Bryan Alsip, executive vice president and chief medical officer, of the University Health System joined the leaders during the briefing today. He spoke about asymptomatic rates within congregate settings and explained why the Bexar County Jail is seeing a high rate of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. He said if everyone in San Antonio were to be tested, the rate of positives with asymptomatic people would be similar to what we’re seeing at the jail.
  • Alsip said what’s important to continue seeing less rates of infection is screenings, sanitation, wearing face coverings and other systems in place to keep people safe. He said the benefit of flattening the curve is to be able to take care of those who are positive. However, he said, as the curve is flattened, it may also become longer.

Officials update community on latest Bexar County Jail COVID-19 statistics, actions taken

  • Sheriff Javier Salazar also joined Nirenberg and Wolff during the briefing. He said his jail has seen 259 positive inmates, many of which are asymptomatic. He also said the rate of infection at the jail is leveling off.
  • Salazar said testing started on April 17, and the rate of infection had climbed drastically until May 4. He said the jail started seeing less positive cases since then. He also said they started testing at the annex facility, and there are still 2,000 more inmates to test. The problem, he said, is that the jail has a population that is constantly changing.
  • Salazar said only three inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 have bonded out, and Metro Health is tracking them. He said they were given special instructions on what they need to do to protect themselves and others.
  • Salazar said the jail has about 180,000 masks for inmates, and more are being ordered. He said the personal protective equipment supply at the jail is good.
  • The sheriff said staffing continues to be an issue at the jail, and it’s harder for them whenever deputies test positive.
  • Salazar said he would probably not allow hand sanitizer at the jail. But he said soap rations have increased to two per week, and any inmate who runs out can ask for more.

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.

Read Bexar County’s updated executive order below. Newsletter recipients: Click here to read the order.

Read San Antonio’s updated executive order below. Newsletter recipients: Click here to read the order.

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