Coronavirus update San Antonio, May 13: Utility company CEOs discuss assistance programs for those affected by COVID-19

SAWS, CPS Energy not currently disconnecting customer utilities

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 1,972 COVID-19 cases and 58 deaths in Bexar County, as of Wednesday. Three new cases were confirmed at the Bexar County Jail, 18 are from the community and four are from congregate settings. He said 1,050 patients have recovered.
  • City officials also reported that 67 patients are hospitalized, 36 are in the intensive care unit and 27 are on ventilators.
  • Nirenberg discussed the two new walk-up testing facilities that are opening tomorrow. He reminded the public that the tests are for people who need them, and there is no appointment required. Click here to read more about the new testing sites.
  • CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams and San Antonio Water System CEO Robert Puente joined the panel this evening to discuss their continued mission to provide essential services to the public and the assistance programs available.
  • Gold-Williams said CPS Energy employees have been divided into three groups to be able to create physical distancing and continue to provide electricity services.
  • Gold-Williams said CPS Energy has suspended its disconnection process for now but will continue to send monthly statements to people so that they know their consumption rates. She said the utility company wants to work with residents on payment plans and has eliminated late fees for now.
  • Gold-Williams said CPS Energy employees are undergoing their preparedness program for the summer, and she said it looks like San Antonio is in good shape for this year. However, she said additional protections have been added to their plans to protect workers from COVID-19.
  • Puente said SAWS employees at service centers are being screened and must wear personal protective equipment. He said workers are still addressing water needs despite local stay-home orders.
  • Puente said SAWS has seen a 300% increase of residents eligible for disconnection, but there hasn’t been a big demand for the utility company’s assistance program.
  • Puente addressed residents who have lost their jobs or had their income reduced. He asked them to call SAWS to work out a payment plan. He said SAWS is not currently disconnecting people’s service or charging late fees.
  • Wolff said the jail is doing good in terms of its COVID-19 infection rate. He said only six inmates are in the infirmary, and none are hospitalized.
  • Wolff spoke about a joint letter that he and other Texas county judges sent to Gov. Greg Abbott to ask about CARES Act funds.
  • Wolff said the Commissioners Court will discuss voting tomorrow during their meeting. He said they’re expected to vote on the direction they want to take. He said there could also be a proposal to provide money to LiftFund to help small business owners and also to the rent assistance program.

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.