Metro Health pushes for more COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

There was a surge in COVID cases this time last year

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is urging people to either get vaccinated for COVID-19 or utilize masks during their Thanksgiving celebrations to stay safe this holiday season.

On Tuesday, Metro Health reported 268 new cases of COVID-19, an increase from the 188 reported cases Friday.

Last year, Bexar County saw a surge in cases of COVID-19 during the holidays, and health officials say they don’t want a repeat of that this year.

“We want to make sure we’re safe. It’s our family, our loved ones and our friends,” shared Anita McKinney as she prepares for the holidays.

Safety is top of mind for many this holiday season.

“All of us are going to be vaccinated because -- my older grandmother, she’s about 104. So we have to make sure we, like, protect her,” Makenzie Stevenson said about her Thanksgiving plans.

The focus on safety comes after a year of canceled plans in 2020.

“We didn’t do anything last year. A lot of my family was more strict with it compared to this year,” Danielle Flores said when comparing Thanksgiving 2020 to Thanksgiving 2021.

This year, Metro Health is hoping the Thanksgiving celebrations yield a different result.

“We did have a surge last November. At about this time is when it was starting, so we are a little bit on edge and watching the numbers very closely,” said Dr. Rita Espinoza, chief epidemiologist of Metro Health said.

Currently, Metro Health’s COVID-19 risk level is still in the “low” category. Hospital trends, average case count, and positivity rate are all low.

“We need to keep that momentum. So we want to encourage everyone who’s eligible to get vaccinated, to get vaccinated, that now it’s five years and older,” Espinoza said.

Anita McKinney is hosting 30 people for Thanksgiving this year.

“We’re going to have a little station at the door,” McKinney explained. “We’ll have our little thermometer, no-touch thermometer, and then we’ll have the sanitizing things.”

Her guests will spread outside, and anyone unvaccinated will be wearing a mask.

Espinoza says that’s the safest way to proceed if you’re having people over who haven’t rolled up their sleeves against COVID-19.

“Outdoors poses less risk than indoors,” Espinoza said.

The chief epidemiologist says Metro Health will be monitoring cases for the weeks after Thanksgiving, especially because kids and college students will be on break and possibly traveling.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.