‘We could be in for a New York City-type situation‘: UT Health SA doctor says on San Antonio COVID-19 spike

Health officials say based on current health models, SA will see a doubling in hospitalizations next week

SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio, and the entire state of Texas, are seeing a significant surge in COVID-19 cases and hospital numbers, especially over the weekend.

On Saturday, Bexar County sent an emergency alert to residents just minutes after the city reported 795 new COVID-19 cases, which was a daily high for San Antonio.

Dr. Robert Leverence, of UT Health San Antonio, joined us on Leading SA to discuss what has lead to the significant increases in cases and hospitalizations.

This tells us that we’re still in the thick of things. It is a highly infectious virus. It still has the capacity to overwhelm our system and we truly can’t let up our efforts,” Dr. Leverence said.

Although some may attribute the higher case numbers to the city’s increase in testing capacity, Dr. Leverence said that isn’t entirely to blame.

We’re seeing increased cases because of more testing, but on the other hand, this is a very real surge. We have, oh, I think, seven fold of the number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in our hospitals in San Antonio compared to three weeks ago,” Dr. Leverence said. “You mentioned 730. We were under 100 just three weeks ago, and I’ll say that has nothing to do with the amount of testing that’s going on in the community. That just has to do with folks getting sick and needing help in our hospitals.”

The hospitals in San Antonio have taken a few actions to help handle the influx of COVID-19 patients, but Dr. Leverence said there is still cause for concern.

“Already in our hospital, we’ve established our emergency operations. We’ve implemented our backup plans. This has taken tremendous preparation and ongoing support. So, this surge is very, very real and we need to take it very seriously,” Dr. Leverence said.

As we are now almost four months into the pandemic, Dr. Leverence said physicians continue to learn more about the virus. However, both models from UTSA and UT Health are showing another doubling in hospitalizations come next week.

“Both models tell us that we’re looking at another doubling of hospitalizations by next week. The models diverge a little bit after that, and it depends a little bit on what we all do,” Dr. Leverence said. “What I mean by that is if we’re currently wearing our masks when we go out, staying home when we can, washing our hands regularly, not meeting in large groups, then hopefully we’ll see a plateauing of these hospitalizations. Not next week. Next week is going to happen.”

The models could change; however, if residents don’t abide by health guidelines, Texas and San Antonio could become the new epicenter for the virus, according to Dr. Leverence.

“If we’re not doing all of those things, then no, we could be in store for a New York City-type of a situation here, no question about it. That’s what the models are predicting,” Dr. Leverence said.

"We ask that you wear your mask." - A message from UT Health. (UT Health)

With sports and school just around the corner, a lot of questions are still looming.

You know, right on the heels of this current wave is going to be most certainly a fall wave, you know, an early winter wave. That’s what we saw in the flu pandemic of 1918, and that’s what most of us are expecting this fall. This current wave is probably going to last until August or September,” Dr. Leverence said. “To me, I don’t think it’s going to be safe to open up for those kinds of public gatherings later this fall. But we’ll find out. We’ll find out.”

Read also:

San Antonio issues ‘stay home’ alert as 795 COVID-19 cases reported Saturday, a daily high

Highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day reported in San Antonio, Bexar County

Texas reports 5,747 more COVID-19 cases amid surge

About the Authors:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.