SAN ANTONIO – COVID-19 is still present in Bexar County, and we’re seeing a sharp rise in cases as kids return to school.
The latest data from San Antonio Metro Health shows a 387% increase in new cases reported from the start of July.
The week of July 3, Metro Health reported a total of 331 new cases. That number has increased weekly since then, with Metro Health reporting 1,612 new cases just this past week.
“The number of tests that ended up turning positive has significantly gone up the last few weeks, so we’re definitely seeing more cases,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, University Health’s director of hospital epidemiology and UT Health professor.
Bowling said this bump in activity follows a summer trend across the country.
“The good news is where we’re at now with COVID is that less people get more severe illness where they end up in the hospital. That being said, we are seeing a slight bump in hospitalizations,” said Bowling. “It is not as high as what we saw in July of last year at the same time, which is good news, but there is a lot of activity out there, which means that there’s still a lot of COVID.”
The strain behind most of these new cases is called EG.5, but it’s not entirely different from previous sub-variants.
“Fortunately, we haven’t moved to a completely different variant. And that’s good news because it means that most people have already been exposed to some of these Omicron sub-variants, and the most recent booster dose also contains that as well, so it’s not completely different. We’re not seeing completely different symptoms or severity of illness,” said Bowling.
Federal health officials are expected to release a new COVID-19 vaccine booster this fall. The new shots are designed to target strains of the virus that come from the original Omicron variant, like EG.5.
“It will be available by October, but they do want people to wait right now so they get this updated booster, which will more closely match what is circulating,” said Bowling. “They’re really trying to simplify the strategy, so it’ll be one dose for most people this fall.”
Metro Health says for now, hospitalizations remain low, but the heat could also be a factor in this rise in cases.
“It’s still not clear why COVID cases are going up, but an increase in traveling crowds gathering indoors, especially now with the heat and people want to be inside, could be some factors for the spread of the virus,” said David Alegria, San Antonio Metro Health spokesperson. “Metro Health continues to remind the community that vaccines are the most effective tool to protect children, teenagers and overall people of all ages against diseases like COVID-19.”
Bowling said while there has been an increase in cases, health officials are not trying to alarm the public but instead make them aware of the situation.
“The good news is that we know what we’re dealing with. We’ve dealt with COVID-19, and there are still tests that are effective, and there’s treatment now for outpatients, people that are not being admitted to the hospital,” said Bowling.
“I think we also need to take note of this too because schools are getting back into session right now. So we know a lot of people are going to be getting together in more crowded settings,” said Bowling. “Everybody should do their own individual risk assessment, and if you have questions about some of your medical conditions, you should talk with your doctor about it. There’s also information on the CDC website about what are the risk factors for more severe COVID, for people that have risk factors that put them in high risk.”
Metro Health is working with community agencies to host COVID-19 pop-up vaccine clinics using health and equity data to coordinate events. No registration is needed. The next clinic will be at Alamo United Methodist Church on Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. A list of pop-up clinics can be found at https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/News-Events/Events.
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