UT Health San Antonio expert warns people to keep up with precautions amid spike in COVID-19 cases

'(Cases are) not going to just magically stop when the hospital gets full. They’re going to keep going.”

San Antonio – As COVID-19 cases spike following a loosening of restrictions, an infectious disease specialist with UT Health San Antonio warns that residents need to continue to take precautions and take it easy on the barbecues.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, a professor at the Long School of Medicine, is concerned about recent jumps in both the rate of positive cases among test results and the hospitalization rate of patients. So even as restrictions are eased, Berggren says San Antonio residents should wash their hands, reduce the number of people with whom they come in contact, stay six feet away from those they encounter and continue to wear masks.

“I’m not asking people to go back and shelter in place, OK? But I am asking people to reel in the family parties,” Berggren said.

“I just want every San Antonian to think about their health and their loved one’s health and think about common-sense measures that each person can take for their own behavior -- how to prevent yourself from getting sick and how to prevent you from unknowingly passing this to somebody else," she continued.

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Between Jun. 7 and Jun. 13, 9.8% of COVID-19 tests were positive, compared to 4.5% of tests the week before.

“We haven’t seen a jump that impressive since the beginning of the epidemic,” Berggren said.

The jump to 176 hospitalized patients as of Sunday night -- the most the city has seen during the pandemic -- also worries her.

“As y’all have seen, the number of cases that get reported day-to-day can be affected by who’s getting tested or whether there’s targeted testing going on. But one thing that you can’t get fooled by is how many people are coming to the hospital sick,” Berggren said.

The warning indicators on the city’s COVID-19 website do not show severe stress on the hospital system yet, but Berggren said that’s why San Antonio residents must take action now.

“We know we’re headed that way when you start to see steep rises in hospitalizations. They’re not going to just magically stop when the hospital gets full. They’re going to keep going,” Berggren said.

According to Berggren, when doctors ask patients where they may have contracted COVID-19, they’re hearing, “basically, it’s getting together with family, and it’s just doing stuff in the community.”

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She recommends four questions people should consider:

  1. How many people are you being exposed to?
  2. How close are they getting?
  3. How long are you in close contact with that person?
  4. Can you modify it?

An easy way to modify, she said, is to have things outside.

“So, you know, if you’re going to have a little get together, people should wear masks and people should be outside, you know. Maybe take your mask off when you’re eating, but you can even have a backyard gathering where people have two or three different small tables and they’re staying apart by household,” Berggren said.

She also recommends at-risk residents, like those over 65 years old or with underlying conditions, to continue to hunker down. Now is not a good time to come out, she says. So rely on younger family members for running errands, like groceries, if possible, and always think, “how can I modify this activity?”

“It is my belief that because of our culture here in San Antonio, that we can reel this increase in. We can encourage one another, and we can get this curve back down to the flat place we want it to be,” Berggren said.

Berggren also requested patients only seeking testing go to one of the other resources in the community and not hospital emergency rooms, where they risk exposing themselves or other people to the virus.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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