Coronavirus update San Antonio, May 11: Officials discuss opening up COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic people

Officials say opening up testing criteria is important as research shows 20 to 25 people in general public could be asymptomatic

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 Monday night. See the full video in the player above.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Nirenberg reported 1,920 COVID-19 cases and 57 deaths in Bexar County, as of Monday. No new cases were confirmed at the Bexar County Jail. He said 978 patients have recovered.
  • City officials also reported that 63 patients are hospitalized, 44 are in the intensive care unit and 26 are on ventilators.
  • Nirenberg talked about the Metropolitan Health District opening up testing criteria to include asymptomatic people. Dr. Dawn Emerick, director of the Metro Health, went into more detail about why the health authority made that decision.
  • Emerick said research shows between 20 to 25 people in the general public could possibly be asymptomatic. However, she emphasized that this may not necessarily be the case for the San Antonio area. But she said this is why having masks is important, to keep people safe from those who may not know they have the virus and are spreading it. She said the masks are also important to guard against people who may be pre-symptomatic and unknowingly spreading the virus.
  • Going forward, cases on the city’s website will be broken down by symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, according to Emerick. She said the drive-thru testing site at Freeman Coliseum and the Texas MedClinic extension site on Southwest Side are open to asymptomatic people. She also said it is up to the practice or other testing sites whether to test asymptomatic people based on capacity, so people should call 311 to get more information.
  • Nirenberg said two new popup, walk-up testing sites are coming to the East Side and Southeast Side on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Wolff spoke about Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement to test people in Texas nursing homes. He said Bexar County has been ahead of the curve with testing those people. Emerick said San Antonio started testing people in nursing homes about two to three weeks ago.
  • Emerick said Metro Health will continue to test random families. She said the health authority will also continue to look at several factors to make sure cases are not rising too quickly in the area. Currently, the doubling rate of cases is 28 days, she said.
  • Nirenberg spoke about the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s decision to allow the reopening of Catholic churches in the area. Read more about the announcement by clicking here. Wolff said the change will help leaders from other churches learn how to best reopen.
  • Wolff said the Bexar County jail is doing much better in terms of new positive cases. He said the jail is still having problems with the state because it won’t take in new inmates into the prison system. He said 216 inmates are still in the jail waiting to be transferred.
  • Nirenberg spoke about the anti-hate resolution passed by the City Council last week after people were seen protesting it on Monday. He said the measure does not create new law and isn’t enforceable. “The penalization is the shame of that,” he said of people using racist language.

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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About the Author:

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes breaking news, COVID-19 coverage, personal finance stories on the "Money: It's Personal" series, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" series.