SAN ANTONIO – With coronavirus infection levels on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear masks indoors throughout most of the country.
The return to masking is due to the spread of the delta variant, a more transmissible and infectious strain of COVID-19. Though vaccinated people still have strong protection against the variant, its spread has led to a startling increase in hospitalizations, mostly among unvaccinated people.
The masking recommendation applies to counties with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. According to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker, more than 63% of counties across the country meet or exceed that threshold.
Bexar County is one of those communities reporting “high” COVID-19 transmission levels, according to the map, with a rate of 126.97 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. That’s a 28% increase over the previous week.
San Antonio has not just seen an increase in cases, but a sharp rise in hospitalizations too.
On July 6, roughly 140 people were hospitalized in Bexar County with COVID-19. That tally quadrupled in the following weeks, with 585 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported as of Tuesday afternoon.
The masking guidance will remain in place until the spread is minimized. Experts say the best way to do that is to get more people vaccinated.
In a news conference last week, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged unvaccinated residents to “forget the disinformation” and sign up for their shots.
Last week, Metro Health reported 75% of people 12 years and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 62.1% were fully vaccinated. Those rates only moved incrementally in Tuesday’s update, to 75.5% and 62.5%, respectively.
In the wake of stalling vaccination rates, California and New York City will mandate vaccinations for its employees or face weekly COVID-19 testing.
Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff released a joint statement earlier this week indicating that they are exploring similar efforts for their own municipal employees.