Some medical procedures delayed as COVID-19 surge threatens Bexar County hospital capacity

88% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated

Medical personnel confer about COVID-19 patients at DHR Health, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Medical personnel confer about COVID-19 patients at DHR Health, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – After another startling jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported Tuesday in Bexar County, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during Wednesday’s update that medical procedures are now being delayed because the surge of the virus has stressed hospital capacity.

As the COVID-19 risk level in Bexar County worsens, officials plan to issue an emergency alert on Wednesday “to make sure as many area residents as possible realize that Metro Health now assesses our COVID-19 threat level as severe,” Nirenberg said.

Bexar County officials reported a seven-day average of 1,146 new COVID-19 cases a day, a 58% increase from the number reported last week which was 724. Hospitalizations rose 32%, from 695 reported on Thursday to 920 reported on Tuesday. Of those hospitalized, 88% were not vaccinated, which dropped from 95% last week.

WATCH: San Antonio leaders urging vaccinations amid a majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated people

San Antonio leaders urging vaccinations amid a majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated people
San Antonio leaders urging vaccinations amid a majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated people

The virus also appears to be affecting more children. At Christus Health’s Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations took up 10% of available beds, according to Dr. Charles Hankins, the hospital Chief Medical Officer. Four pediatric COVID-19 patients, including one who is only 4-years-old, are on ventilators fighting for their lives, Hankins said. Hankins said there are also children on ventilators with RSV, which has seen an unusual spike this summer.

“We talked about the delay in elective (surgeries),” Hankins said, referring to Nirenberg’s comment during the press conference. “We had to delay a congenital heart surgery case two days ago because the nursing staffing being dedicated to these children with the (COVID) virus.”

Hankins expressed concern that pediatric COVID-19 cases may surge as children prepare to return to schools for in-person instruction. He urged everyone over 12 to get vaccinated to protect younger children. He also recommended students wear masks in school.

WATCH: Health care official explains how the COVID-19 Delta variant is affecting younger patients

Health care official explains how the COVID-19 Delta variant is affecting younger patients
Health care official explains how the COVID-19 Delta variant is affecting younger patients

“We saw this, we had a great experiment last year,” Hankins said. “Kids that did go and wear masks, they didn’t spread things. It’s not mandated, but every parent can mandate it for your family.”

White House officials said Tuesday that one-third of all new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States this past week came from Florida and Texas, two states that have barred mask mandates amid the surge in cases.

Though Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his executive order that prohibits local officials from imposing mask mandates or capacity restrictions amid a surge in cases, they stopped short of indicating they would violate the order and issue a mandate, like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner did.

“That all causes a great deal of confusion and in all likelihood lead to lawsuits,” Wolff said.

Officials stressed that the best way to curb the surge is to get more people vaccinated, especially among the 19-29 age group. They provided a chart that shows the rate of infection among unvaccinated residents and vaccinated residents.

COVID-19 infection rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated Bexar County residents. (KSAT)

Watch the COVID-19 briefing below

San Antonio and Bexar County officials hold a COVID-19 update as the risk level reaches "severe."
San Antonio and Bexar County officials hold a COVID-19 update as the risk level reaches "severe."

Read more:


About the Authors:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.