Second wave of COVID-19 cases in Bexar County poses serious threat to diabetes patients, doctor says

Doctors say patients need to be aware, have supply of medication ready

SAN ANTONIO – There has been a spike of 1,082 COVID-19 cases in the last week in Bexar County, with 381 reported this weekend alone.

Last week, health officials declared there is a second wave of the virus in the area.

The news has hit hard for thousands of diabetes patients in South Texas who are at risk of more severe outcomes and even higher death rates if they get the novel coronavirus.

“I’ve been a diabetic for 42 years,” said San Antonio patient Rosalinda Salinas.

As if that’s not enough, amid the pandemic, Salinas recently got out of open-heart surgery.

Salinas' recent surgery and her condition make her part of a very vulnerable population.

Doctor visits become obsolete for diabetic patients amid COVID-19 pandemic

The prevalence of diabetes in South Texas and San Antonio is much higher than the national average.

“Approximately 14% of San Antonians suffer from diabetes,” said Dr. Carolina Solis-Herrera, with UT Health San Antonio.

Solis-Herrera said one current theory that could explain the blow to diabetes patients’ immune systems might lie in the ACE-2 receptor in people’s bodies.

“It’s a receptor that we have in our body working normally. But patients with high blood sugar, patients with obesity and other inflammatory chronic diseases, have an over-expression of this receptor. So the virus that causes COVID(-19) attaches to those receptors, which could be a recipe for disaster,” Solis-Herrera said.

Even though the local and state economies are reopening, patients like Salinas aren’t moving too far out of lockdown mode.

“If I want to eat something, I’ll do the drive-thru, pick it up and bring it home. I have not gone to any restaurants because of my fear of getting the COVID(-19). I don’t know who is around me,” Salinas said.

Coronavirus death rate is higher for those with chronic ills

In the event cases begin to spike even faster, Solis-Herrera has suggestions for her patients.

“Have your doctors' telephone numbers ready, have a two to three months' refill on your medications, monitor your sugars -- especially if you’re feeling unwell. Check your temperature frequently, and have supplies at home,” she said.

Solis-Herrera said many prediabetic patients don’t know they are on the verge of diagnosis and are vulnerable. She said residents should get regular checkups and utilize telemedicine.

If you don’t have diabetes, Salinas and Solis-Herrera want you to be aware of how many of your neighbors are vulnerable and depend on you to wear a mask, follow social distancing guidelines and wash your hands.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.