SAN ANTONIO – With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations steadily rising, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg pleaded with unvaccinated residents who are most susceptible to serious illness or death when they are infected with the virus.
“Forget the disinformation that you hear out there,” Nirenberg said during a countywide briefing on Friday. “You are at great risk of severe illness.”
Officials are seeing a concerning increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Bexar County. Five weeks ago, the average number of coronavirus hospitalizations stood at 123. As of Friday, 418 people are now hospitalized due to COVID-19, Nirenberg said.
Infections have been rising due to the spread of the delta variant, a strain of COVID-19 that has proved to be deadlier and more transmissible.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that up to 97% of the patients battling the virus in the hospital are unvaccinated.
“For those that chose not to get vaccinated, I would hope that (the hospitalizations) would send a clear message to everybody,” Wolff said. “You better go get your vaccination. It’s a little late to ask for the vaccination when you’re fixing to go on a ventilator.”
Along with the rise in hospitalizations, the community has seen a rising positivity rate, the percentage of weekly COVID-19 tests that come back positive for the virus. The county’s positivity rate hit 13.5% as of Monday. A month ago, it was 3.8%.
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Though roughly 12% of current infections involve vaccinated people, health officials said less than 1% of vaccinated residents in Bexar County have been infected with COVID-19.
“Yes, we [vaccinated people] may get COVID,” Wolff said about the potential of breakthrough infections. “But we’re not going to end up sick and in the hospital.”
Nirenberg said he and Wolff will receive briefings twice weekly about COVID-19 conditions, with updates going to the public on the Bexar County’s progress curbing the virus.
COVID-19 conditions are not only worsening in San Antonio, but across the state of Texas, where the positivity rate hit 10.2% for the first time since February.
Medical experts say COVID-19 vaccines are still the best way to reduce the likelihood of infection and prevent severe illness or hospitalization.
In San Antonio, roughly 65% of adults are fully vaccinated, but statewide, that number drops to roughly 51%, according to the latest state data.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said the variant is “having a significant effect on unvaccinated people leading to increases in new cases and hospitalizations.”